The Five Components of Physical Fitness

Knowing the five components of physical fitness will help you train effectively to reach your goals.

When we think about exercise, our minds typically turn to one, maybe two, specific types of activity or perhaps a state-of-being. In actuality, scientists have identified five primary components of physical fitness. These components represent the five areas of physicality that one should work to optimize in order to become or remain fit.

So what are the five components of physical fitness?

Muscular Strength

This is the greatest amount of force a muscle group can exert in a single repetition of a given exercise. The most common example of a muscular strength test is likely to be one repetition maximum lift, often called a “max.”

Muscular Endurance

This is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to repeatedly perform an exercise or movement with a sub-maximal force for an extended period of time. A common field test for muscular endurance is bench press repetition test using a percentage of your body weight (for example 40%) and counting how many times it can be lifted in a continual effort.

Cardio Respiratory Endurance

This is the efficiency with which the body delivers oxygen and nutrients needed for muscular activity to the cells and transports waste products from the cells. There are a great number of tests for cardio respiratory endurance. This is primarily due to the fact that this component of fitness is so closely related to vital heart, lung, and circulatory health. The treadmill stress test one would take at a doctor’s visit is an example of a cardio respiratory endurance test. Here are some others.


Flexibility, in this case, is the ability of a joint or group of joints to move through a complete, normal range of motion. This is one of the most overlooked components of fitness and is just as vital to overall fitness as any other component listed here. A quality stretching program provides a more agile body and can even reduce muscle tension that is associated with everything from various bone and joint problems to tension headaches.

Body Composition

Body composition is the percentage of body fat a person has in relation to that person’s total body mass. In other words, body composition is measured using a body fat test. Here is a list of most of the quality testing methods available. The most common method found in gyms is probably a three-, four-, or seven-site skin-fold test using skin-fold calipers.

Know Your Baseline

This is a short explanation of the five components of physical fitness and how they are measured. Whatever your fitness goals, be sure to design a fitness program (or have one made for you) that will help you improve all these components.

I recommend you identify a test for each of these five components and conduct that test to find a baseline set of data showing where your current fitness level is. Using that data, work to improve each component of physical fitness as needed to maximize each of them appropriately.

strength, endurance, flexibility, composition, cardio, respiratory

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