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The Two Models of Physical Fitness – Knowledge for Fitness Trainers

The Two Models of Physical Fitness

The Two Models of Physical Fitness

1st Model of Physical Fitness

The definition of fitness can be expanded to incorporate a number of the essential elements which make up physical fitness.  Describing the key or essentials elements can identify other aspects of physical fitness for clarification. Fitness comprises a series of interrelated structural and functional factors which may be conveniently referred to as the basic S-factors of fitness (Verkhoshansky and Siff, 2009):

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Stamina (local muscular endurance)
  • Suppleness (flexibility)
  • Skill (neuromuscular efficiency)
    • Style – the individual manner of expressing a particular skill (more on this in subsequent chapters on exercise techniques)
  • Structure (body type i.e. Somatotype, size, shape)
  • Spirit (psychological preparedness)

Unlike work capacity, fitness is described not simply by laboratory measurements of qualities such as cardiovascular function, muscle strength, and flexibility, but also by the specificity of fitness required for each activity or sport depending on neuromuscular skills.  

This first model is constructed from the functional motor elements of fitness. This model is divided into two stages: first, as a triangular model, which inter-relates strength, stamina (muscular endurance), speed, and flexibility and secondly, as a more complete and multi-level pyramidal model which interrelates all of these factors with the process which makes all movement possible, namely neuromuscular control or skill.

The below diagram corroborates the pyramid model (i.e. the Key Motor Abilities) depicting the various strength/motor qualities on a continuum that also relates to the sports continuum previous listed.

Two Models of Physical Fitness_figure_2

The Interdependence of the motor qualities of strength, speed, and endurance.  Verkhoshansky and Siff (Supertraining – Extended Version, 6th edition, 2009, page 152).  Used by permission

The pyramid diagram illustrates that strength, endurance, and flexibility may be produced statically or dynamically, unlike speed, which changes along a continuum from static (speed = 0) to the dynamic state.  

For this and other reasons, this model should be viewed as one which is representational or descriptive rather than scientifically analytical. Again, this model allows coaches to identify an extended list of fitness factors i.e. the various types/categories of strength as follows (the factors bearing an asterisk are the various types of special strength:

Two Models of Physical Fitness_figure_3

It is sometimes convenient to identify various flexibility qualities as well:

Two Models of Physical Fitness_figure_4

Skill A series of skill-related fitness factors may also be identified, although it should be noted that skill forms an integral part of the process of exhibiting all of the above strength /fitness or motor qualities:

  • Strength-skill* (Diachkov, 1961; Kuznetsov, 1970)
  • Flexibility-skill
  • Speed-skill
  • Skill-endurance

Example of the various categories of Strength

Weightlifting is considered an excellent example of strength-speed.  Lifters must possess maximum strength and the ability to display this strength very fast (explosively).  Review of a hang clean is below:

Two Models of Physical Fitness_figure_5

Example of Rate of Force Development and various types of strength. A typical force-time curve describing the lifting of free weights from a given position and returning it to rest. Movement occurs only when the force exceeds the weight of the object, namely the shaded portion of the curve.  From Supertraining –Expanded Version, 6th edition, page 109, 2009. Used by permission

The 2nd Model of Fitness

The second model is the star diagram depicting the relationship between skill, strength, endurance, flexibility, and speed.

Two Models of Physical Fitness_figure_6

This diagram gives another perspective on the various categories of strength and how maximum strength is varied depending on the type of strength necessary for a specific event.  

Every activity has a primary and secondary type of strength utilized to achieve success in that activity or sport. Knowing which types of strength are necessary for success in a particular activity will enable coaches to optimize strength training.  

Again, this diagram depicts categories of special strength that are trained after building a basic foundation of strength. This is analogous to building a house i.e. a foundation must be built first before walls. This also coincides with the Preparation Pyramid previously shown.

What Does This Mean?

All of the primary and more complex fitness factors (types of strength) should be viewed as convenient descriptors of qualities which are involved in different proportions in a particular activity.  

Nevertheless, the pyramid and star models enable a coach to understand the sport-specific fitness and training far more effectively than a simplistic model based only on the primary functional fitness factors of strength, endurance, speed, and flexibility.

It is also important that coaches and trainers understand that at all stages of training there are differences between work capacity, fitness level (various types of strength especially foundation strength development which includes technique development to coincide with work capacity), and preparedness, since a high level of work capacity (strength-endurance or endurance strength) and sport-specific strength will not guarantee exceptional performance.  

Instead, the ability to exhibit a maximal level of preparedness is essential if such performance is to be expected. Following the Performance Preparedness pyramid, i.e. building a foundation of strength first then training for the specifics of a particular sport, will help to ensure increasing basic strength levels to improve performance and decrease the risk of injury.