The 5 Essential Elements of Physical Fitness
July 11, 2020

Personal trainers tend to focus on certain aspects of physical fitness they believe are very important when working with their clients. With that in mind, I’m sharing my “Top 5” with you. These are the five elements that I think are essential when I’m working with most people. So let’s get started!

#5 – Improve Your Muscular Balance

It is important that your muscles are working together on both sides of a joint, that both sides are balanced. If the muscles on one side of the joint become too tight because of overuse, and the muscles on the other side are weak due to lack of use, it can lead to injuries. And nobody has time for that!

If a client doesn’t have an imbalance, I will design a program with equal amounts of work for each group of opposing muscles. For instance, they’ll do the same number of rows for the back and chest presses for the chest. My programming will be different if someone has an imbalance (and I’ll share that information in another post).

It is also essential to do exercises in different directions – back and forth, side to side, and rotational movement. We don’t move through our lives in one direction, so we shouldn’t train as if we do!

#4 – Increase Your Range of Motion

Your range of motion is the measurement of movement you have around a joint. It’s essential to be able to move your joints (shoulders, hips, etc.) through their full range of motion.

So why did this make my Top 5 list? Let’s say you have a limited range of motion in your shoulder and can’t lift your arm overhead. What does that prevent you from doing? Maybe you’re not able to take something off a high shelf, or put luggage in an overhead bin, or participate in a recreational activity. A limited range of motion can affect your quality of life and get in the way of being able to do what you want.

When working on strengthening your body, you want to get stronger through as much of the body’s movement as it’s designed to do.When I’m working with a client, we strive to get as much range of motion as possible and work with weights and resistance bands to build strength throughout the entire movement.

#3 – Strengthen Your Body (especially your back and glutes)

Of course, this one seems like a no brainer! You want to have strong muscles so you can do the things you want to do. That’s one of the reasons why you’re working out, right?

So why do I put so much emphasis on the back and glutes? Because for many people who sit a lot, these areas tend to be weak, and weakness can lead to pain and injuries.

If your shoulders round forward, there is a chance that your chest muscles and lats are tight and your upper back is weak. In general, when I’m working with a client who has this posture, I have them do row exercises every time I work with them. I usually have them do more back exercises than chest work and do foam rolling and stretching for the chest and lats.

And then there are the glutes! The people who work with me can tell you I’m a little glute-obsessed (but I’ll leave that for a future article!). Your three gluteal muscles can be a powerhouse if trained correctly. Strong gluteal muscles can help reduce or prevent lower back and knee pain and help avoid muscle imbalances. A client will rarely leave their session without doing some glute training with me. It is that important!

#2 – Improve Your Balance

Almost everyone should be including balance exercises in their daily life! I can’t emphasize this enough! You don’t have to save it for when you’re doing your exercise program. A few minutes a day can make a huge difference.

Balance is a skill that you’ll start to lose if you don’t work on it frequently. This is especially true as you get older because losing that ability can put you at more risk for falling.

When I work with a client, I always include some balance activity. We start with balancing while standing still and progress to working on balance while moving and eventually adding more challenging aspects.

Many elements go into balance training, but getting started can be as simple as standing next to something sturdy and elevating one foot off the floor a little. Just be sure to do this safely. It is also important to include exercises to strengthen your feet and ankles.

#1 – Build a Strong Core

Your core isn’t just your abdominal muscles. It goes from your torso to your hips, and it plays a critical role in balance, stability, and posture. A strong core can also lessen low back pain.

Let’s talk about just your ab muscles for a minute. You have the muscles that are part of the outer layer of your abs. These are the ones we generally target when exercising.

What may be missing are the exercises to strengthen the deep muscles of the abs. These are the muscles that you want to train first. It is possible to have “6 pack abs” and have a weak core because you’re not working to strengthen those innermost muscles.

Now back to the core in general. You have stabilizing muscles in your back that need strengthening as well. A couple of powerhouse exercises are Bird Dogs and Hip Bridges and can help with that.

When I work with a client, we start by working on the deep foundation of the core. So exercises like the Pelvic Tilts and Cat/Cows. I also explain how to do Bracing – this is when you tighten up your abs as if someone is about to punch you in the stomach. While these might seem like basic exercises, they’re so integral in building a strong core.

Also, keep in mind that when you’re doing any other kind of movement (squats, lunges, reaching overhead), your core should always be working. It takes some time to make that mind-body connection, but it is so beneficial.

IMPORTANT!Remember to always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have previous or current injuries. You should also talk with your physician if you experience any pain during or after a workout.

This “Top 5” list of is helpful in understanding why I use the approach that I do. I always start by working to improve the foundation of the body so you can function optimally in your daily life and be able to do the amazing things you do! If you have any questions about anything I’ve posted, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d be happy to help! 🦋

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