THE CONCEPT OF
TOTAL FITNESS by Jack Medina, M.A.
Though it is difficult to precisely define Fitness, total fitness
requires adequate muscular strength and endurance, reasonable joint
flexibility, an efficient cardiovascular system with a good level of
aerobic fitness, and acceptable body composition with control over body
PRINCIPLES OF CONDITIONING:
1. Overload - Exercising the body at a level above that which it
normally operates. This principle can be accomplished by increasing the
frequency of exercise, increasing the intensity of exercise, or
increasing the duration of exercise.
2. Specificity: This refers to the metabolic and physiologic changes
that occur depending upon the type of overload used. Research studies
suggest that a person should perform training exercises in a manner as
close as possible to the way he or she wishes to use the improved
capacity. Example, fitness for bicycling is best achieved through
cycling exercises, etc.
3. Individual Difference - It is critical that the person's relative
fitness level at the start of training is considered prior to
prescribing an exercise program. Training benefits are maximized when
programs are planned to meet individual needs and capabilities.
4. Reversibility - The "if you don't use it you lose it" principle. Once
an individual reaches a certain level of conditioning, a regular program
of activity must be maintained to prevent deconditioning. Some
researchers have estimated that improvements gained are lost in 5-10
weeks, and often times much faster, once the conditioning is stopped.
CONDITIONING THE MUSCLES OF THE BODY
The overload principle is applied by the use of weights, immovable bars,
straps, pulleys, or springs. The muscle will respond to the intensity of
overload with the overload created by increasing the load or resistance,
the repetitions performed, the speed of muscular contraction, or by
various combinations. Three systems are commonly used: Isotonic
training, Isometric training and Isokinetic training. Isotonic training,
often referred to as weight training, involves the muscle exerting
tension in order to overcome a fixed or variable resistance. There are
two types of muscular contractions: Eccentric, the muscle lengthens as
it contracts, and Concentric, the muscle shortens as it contracts.
Isometric training has no movement during the muscle contraction. One
disadvantage to this method is that strength development is specific to
the angle at which the force is applied. Another is that there is little
if any transfer of isometric strength developed at one joint angle to
other body positions, even when the same muscles are involved.
Isokinetic training is working against a resistance that permits
movement at a pre-set, pre-fixed speed and enables the muscle to obtain
its maximum contraction throughout the full range of movement.
Don't plan on using weight training as your primary source of aerobic
training. A one-hour weight training session is usually no longer than
about 6-8 minutes of actual muscular work.
SELECTING YOUR TRAINING PROGRAM
The following items must be considered prior to beginning your program:
1. What are your personal objectives? Power training (strength vs. time)
is usually six repetitions or less; strength training 7-15 repetitions;
strength with muscle endurance 15-25 repetitions; muscle endurance
training only 25-50 repetitions.
2. How to get the most use of the available facilities and/or equipment.
What is best for you relative to time, convenience and motivation
3. Selection of proper exercises.
4. Proper arrangement of the exercises
The capacity to perform all out exercise of up to 120 seconds in
duration depends mainly on this system of energy metabolism. The
overload system must be applied in conditioning in order to improve this
energy generating capacity. Sports such as football, ice hockey and
weightlifting rely mostly on energy derived from the anaerobic system
and basically do not require oxygen. Thus a subsequent exercise bout can
begin only after an adequate rest period for recovery. Individuals
should undertake numerous bouts of intense, short duration exercise and
the training activities selected must use the muscles for which the
person desires anaerobic power.
Continuous exercise performed for longer than two minutes requires
energy from both the anaerobic and aerobic metabolic reactions. If the
supply of oxygen is adequate to meet energy needs, then the exercise can
be continued in a steady state and the feelings of discomfort from
fatigue are minimal. Therefore the intensity at which exercise can be
sustained for relatively long periods of time depends upon the body's
capacity of support systems for oxygen transport, the heart, lungs and
Before engaging in an aerobic exercise program you should consider the
1. Initial level of cardiovascular capacity.
2. Frequency of training. Three days per week minimum is generally
accepted, although some adaptive changes may occur in two days per week.
3. Duration of training - it is known that both continuous as well as
intermittent overloads are effective in improving aerobic capacity. Even
single 3-5 minute bouts of vigorous exercise performed three times per
week will improve the aerobic system. However, performing less
exhausting but steady state exercise for 20 minutes or longer will
increase the pumping ability of the heart as well as the metabolic
capacity of the specific muscles being used.
4. Intensity of training - this is a critical factor. The American
College of Sports Medicine recommends that aerobic training, to be most
efficient, be conducted 3 days per week utilizing 20-30 minutes of
continuous exercise sufficient to expend about 300 kcal. This is usually
assured by exercising at a pulse rate of about 70% of maximum heart rate
(220 minus your age X 70%).
5. Specificity of Training - it is reasonable to advise that in training
the aerobic system for a specific activity such as rowing, swimming,
cycling, running, etc., the method of training must overload the
appropriate muscles required by the activity as well as provide stress
for the heart and vascular system.
6. Muscle Fiber Type - the average percentage of slow-twitch fibers in
sedentary men is about 45-50 percent, but the variation is large. It
would seem logical that these people, with a large proportion of slow
twitch fibers in their leg muscles, would be successful in endurance
running, while those with a distribution favoring fast twitch fibers
would excel in sprint activities (more on testing for these factors
later). It appears that the distribution of these fibers is determined
by genetic code largely fixed at birth.
DEVELOP YOUR AEROBIC PROGRAM
Start slowly, warm-up before you start any exercise program, dress
sensibly, and allow a cool-down period of 5-10 minutes.
References: Nutrition, Weight Control and Exercise by Frank Katch and
William McArdle and Sports Physiology by Edward l. Fox.