Strength training in fitness is just one of the 5 components of fitness.  But why is it so important to include in your routine and how can you do it?

The other 4 components of fitness are:

  • Mobility
  • Cardiovascular endurance
  • Muscular endurance
  • Body composition

Power and Strength Training in Fitness

In order to move the discussion towards strength and power in fitness, we first need to discern where strength fits in with fitness specifically when compared with athleticism.

Athletic vs. Fit

Athleticism is defined as having the qualities of an athlete, specifically strength, fitness, and agility.  I will make a few changes to that definition below.

Fitness is defined as the state of being physically fit, and fit is defined as being healthy usually in reference to regular physical activity.

So by definition, fitness is a broad, all-encompassing term that generically means healthy.

By contrast, we must talk about what most people deem as fitness, which in reality is most likely a version of athleticism.

  • Athleticism is:
    • Highly skilled, versatile, has a focus on power specifically in many planes (side to side, forward, backward, up etc.), and is highly transferrable between “genres” or sports.
    • Focused on performance rather than health or appearance.  It is the result of specialization and results in supreme efficiency at a small number, sometimes 1, task or tasks.
  • Fitness is:
    • Defined by health, appearance, and well-being.  It is all-encompassing, having general competency in all of the facets of movement and performance.
    • Can be achieved in many ways, focused on nutrition, consistency, gradual progression, and function rather than performance, specifically at an elite level.
    • Focused on the overall spectrum of fitness (the components) rather than specializing towards one end for performance.
  • Both athleticism and fitness include:
    • Training and skill practice, at different levels of expertise
    • Progressively nuanced programming as training age increases i.e. coaching
    • Physical activity in some way, shape, or form
    • Development of a physique based on training methods

Athleticism and fitness are not mutually exclusive.  You can have one without the other, but there are some similarities.

For example, an athlete who can produce a ton of power might not be what we consider healthy.  Not to generalize but this might include some powerlifters, baseball players, and various athletes that disregard the certain aspects of the fitness spectrum.

On the other hand, someone who we look at and think is fit, could be very unhealthy also.  See skinny fat or bodybuilders using synthetic drugs and hormones.

For this discussion, we will talk about fitness and how athleticism, specifically training in an athletic way, can be applied to fitness.

Key takeaway:

Not all athletes are fit, and not all who are fit are athletes.  The goal of anyone who is interested in fitness and is not an athlete, i.e. focusing on performance for a competition, should be to attain health, not just the look of health.

Training vs. Working Out

Strength Training in Fitness


An important distinction to make before we can begin a conversation about strength and power is that of training versus working out.

Training is the implementation of a plan, or a specific strategy to achieve your goal. It is regimented, structured, and consistent in it’s methods and tools.

Training effectiveness is determined by numerical progress and can be measured by physical adaptations that include weight, body fat percentage, 1 repetition maximums, maximum repetition testing, timed trials of various sorts. Training is typically performance based and tested and retested.

Training strength in fitness is how long-term progress is made.

Working out

For most people, working out is regarded as any time you do something active with the intention of getting closer to achieving your goal, whatever that may be. While this may have an air of truth about it, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

In reality, working out is any series of compiled activities that generates a feeling of fatigue, exhaustion, sweatiness, and sometimes soreness.

Working out is effective for challenging yourself aerobically/metabolically and can be helpful in increasing your work capacity, endurance, and your daily energy expenditure (burns extra calories), but not necessarily your long-term results at it takes nothing but that day into account.

This is effective in the short-term, day-to-day, but not effective for the long-term.

Key takeaway:

Training is a great way to enact a plan and achieve long-term results.  This is the long-haul version of fitness.

Working out is the short-term effort you put in that may or may not results in achieving your goal.  It is momentarily satisfactory but it lacks the bigger picture.

Both have a place in your routine, as long as their methods and purpose is respected.

Strength and Power

Strength and Power

Remember how we dissociated athleticism and fitness?  Ok good, it’s coming back around now.

Athletes typically don’t “work out” in the same sense that most people do.  They train.  They don’t focus on calories, they focus on their performance and enhancing what their bodies can do.  Their training typically includes strength training, power training, or a combination of the two.

  1. Strength – the ability to produce maximal force against an external stimulus.
  2. Power – the ability to produce maximal force as fast as possible. It is the speed component of strength.

Both strength and power are typically trained in complex training cycles and involve training at high intensities with lower reps (heavier weights, tempo/slower reps, explosive/power training, etc.)

Athletes typically “work out” by performing their sport or going through their practice sessions.  Like I mentioned earlier, both have a place in your fitness routine.

Why does it matter?

So why make such a big deal out of strength and power? Specifically for athletes? It sounds like it’s sort of complicated…

In fitness, strength training and power training can be the most technical things you do in the gym, but they are the most crucial components. Building strength and power will allow you to do more with your body.  This is something athletes have known and been practicing for a long time.

Applying power and strength training in fitness will allow you to:

  • lift heavier weight
  • see bigger gains in muscle
  • increase training volume = increasing energy expenditure
  • increase expenditure = more nutritional freedom/easier to lose fat
  • make physical adaptations faster and more efficiently
  • improved athleticism
  • progress through a periodized, or cyclical, training program with increasing efficiency over time
  • develop swag *see confidence gained from all of the above*

Although health is the goal, most of you reading this are here because you are interested in looking a certain way, or making some visible changes.  The reason that athleticism is important is because by training like an athlete, you can mimic the results of the athletes, i.e. looking fit.  But in addition, you will be paying attention to more than just the narrow scope of focus that an athlete does and hence you will be healthier i.e. more fit.

The reason that athleticism is important is because by training like an athlete, you can mimic the results of athletes, i.e. looking fit.

Incorporating strength training in fitness

You can best incorporate strength training in a fitness routine by mastering the following movements (specific to strength training) that comprise all of our bodies abilities and their subsequent exercises:

  • Squat
    • Movements include:
      • Front squat
      • Back squat
      • Overhead squat
      • Goblet squat
      • Trap bar squat
      • etc.
  • Hinge
    • Movements include:
      • Deadlifts
      • Romanian deadlifts (RDL’s)
      • Trap bar deadlifts
      • KB swings
      • KB deadlifts
      • Pull-throughs
      • etc.
  • Push/press
    • Movements include:
      • Overhead press
      • Push press/push jerk
      • Bench press
      • Floor press
      • Incline bench press
      • Handstand Push-ups for the CrossFit folk
      • etc.
  • Pull
    • Movements include:
      • Pull-ups
      • Chin-ups
      • Lat pulldown
      • Rows (seated, dumbbell, barbell, inverted, upright)
      • etc.
  • Twist
    • Movements include
      • Cable choppers
      • Russian twists and bicycles
      • KB Windmills
      • Medicine ball hip throw
  • Lunge/Carry
    • Movements include:
      • Farmer’s walk
      • Split squat
      • Walking lunges
      • Reverse lunges
      • Side lunges
      • Step-ups
      • etc.
Strength Training in Fitness

The most important aspect in implementing power development and strength training in fitness is learning first how to do the movements properly, then adjusting each movement to appropriately utilize and challenge strengths and weaknesses.

Once you have mastered the basics of major strength lifts, you can then begin to fine tune your training by applying methods to your training that work best for you.

Some major examples of adapting the principles to match your strength and challenge your weaknesses would include deadlifting with a sumo stance or a conventional stance, bench pressing with an aggressive arch or a mild arch, squatting with a high bar squat or a low bar squat etc.

After mastering the lifts, your program can include 2-3 sessions a week of performing 1-2 of the major movements per body part, depending on the intensity of each lift.  After the period of newbie gains (4-8 weeks after mastery), you’ll want to optimize gains by doing 2 sessions per body part per week.  Typically split up as 2 upper body days and 2 lower body days.

Learn more about including strength training into your routine and get a sample program here.

Key takeaway:

Strength training in fitness is just one of the components.  It is an important part and if must be included in any program that hopes to be successful over the long run, but focus too closely or sharply on it, and the other aspect will suffer.  Train for strength with athleticism in mind and you’ll see the quality of your fitness increase greatly.

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