The New Measures of Fitness

There are 5 traditional components of physical fitness:

1. Cardiovascular Fitness
2. Muscular Strength
3. Muscular Endurance
4. Flexibility
5. Body Composition

Sounds nice? Well I think that delineating these into separate compartments is pointless when it comes to how well the body functions.

the "Sit and Who Cares" test
I mean, it's the year 2012 and college students are still taught how to perform the Sit & Reach test. Meanwhile, our ability to sit on the floor and reach past the toes has practically no bearing on how well we actually move when reaching and running and lifting and sitting.

And really, who cares if you're 3 percent body fat but can't easily reach both arms overhead or make a lateral cut without buckling a knee?

Why, goodness why, do so many people still think that completing a marathon is THE holy grail of fitness? I've worked with many who have a cardiovascular system capable of delivering massive volumes of oxygenated blood to the top of a Red Wood through a crazy straw but have not the strength or controlled mobility to reach to the ground without their spine weeping.

So you think I'm a big strength guy? The bench press is completely unimpressive. You want to lay on your back, drop weight onto an air inflated chest, and bump it up into a four inch lifting motion? That's like the opposite of fitness. Haven't we all seen huge barrel chested gorillas who could lay down and press a car from the ground but not catch up with a baby toddling toward the street?

And as much as I love dead lifts as a total body measure of strength and mobility, I've seen too many mega lifting tanks who probably couldn't jump over the barbell if they tried. [Plus heavy dead lifts just don't lend themselves well to higher repetition ranges.]

Yoga is cool. Maybe it's fun to do. I don't know, I haven't spent much time in it. It's great to be able to stand on one foot while putting on your socks, which would actually make a decent measure of balance-strength-flexibility. But I doubt that yoga trains or captures the body's ability to control body segments when dealing with momentum and gravity at the speed of regular life.

What if there are even simpler and better ways to boil the relevant principles down to a minimalist set of fitness tests? While hand stand push ups and power cleans are pretty awesome, we need simple tests that are fairly low on risk and skill demands. So may I propose:

The New Measures of Fitness

Jumping. Vertical jump is good, but tuck jumps are even better because they require more timing, coordination, trunk strength, and flexibility. If you can tuck jump over 4 feet, you are one adequately strong, powerful, flexible, physically fit cat who could probably complete a marathon without much undue training.

 Pull Ups. I don't care about the size of your chest or arms or your body composition. Those things will have taken care of themselves once you can use just the upper body to pull yourself up from a dead hang. If you can do 5 pull ups with 25% of your body weight added, you are one strong person with far better than average body composition.

20 Rep Squat. How much weight can you squat 20 times? Take all the time you want but each squat must be of sufficient depth and you can't rack the weight. Let me tell you that there may be no better test of strength, stability, total body range of motion, stamina, and GUTS than high rep squats.

For example, if your 20 rep squat score is low because you can't reach sufficient depth without racheting and straining, then you probably lack core strength, good thoracic posture, and/or hip or ankle flexibility and you don't HAVE to test all these things separately.

If you can squat 1.75 X your body weight for 20 solid reps, you can do just about anything. Hiking or lifting or swimming or biking or generally being awesome will come easy when you've spent time working on sufficient posture and strength and stability etc to be able to safely push yourself on squats.

If you think I've missed a specific test of cardiovascular fitness, then try a hard set of 20 rep squats. Okay, well, you could include the mile run or the "beep" test if you still think necessary. But in almost every facet of life, I'll go with the person with a better 20 Rep Squat over the person with a better time in the mile run. 

better than sitting on the couch, yes, but...

learn to squat!

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