You can improve your overall fitness regardless of what sport or exercise you do. But performance can only be improved by training that focuses on your specific activity.
To play tennis, for instance, you must have both flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. However, to be good at the game of tennis, you must improve on skill-related fitness elements like speed, agility, power, and hand-eye coordination. It is this emphasis on activity-related skills which distinguishes two distinct areas in fitness development.
Getting Fit vs. Improving Performance
The fitness components are essential for all people, no matter their level of physical activity. They are:
- The body composition
- Cardiovascular endurance
- Muscular endurance
- Muscular strength
Your risk of getting heart disease is reduced if you have a better cardiovascular endurance. Flexibility is a key component of your ability to move freely. It allows you to do everyday tasks like lifting items off the floor and reaching high shelves.
These aspects of fitness are essential for physical health. They can also lead to positive lifestyle outcomes for those who follow the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines 1.
- Cardio exercise with moderate intensity for 30 minutes daily, five days a week (for a total 150 minutes/week).
- Cardio exercise with high intensity, for 20 minutes per week, 3 days a semaine
- Combination of vigorous and moderate intensity exercise. Plus
- Resistance training two to three days a week
- Two days a week, flexibility exercises
Skill-Related Fitness Parts
If you already meet the ACSM guidelines, but you still want to work harder to reach a particular fitness goal, then consider these six fitness component: 2
- Coordinating (hand-eye, foot-eye)
- Reaction time
Fitness is all about health. Some athletes may be more interested in the skill-related aspects of fitness. Even though everyone can benefit from daily walks, someone who runs a few miles a day to keep their heart pumping shouldn’t worry about how fast they can run.
To be successful at the highest level, baseball players should also work on all skills. Weightlifters can still focus on power, balance and strength.
To increase your level of fitness beyond your basic needs for health, you can add exercises to your workout that focus on skill-related aspects of fitness.
Power is the combination of speed, strength and endurance. It is simply how fast you can generate the maximum force. “Power athletes” in sports are those who exert a lot of strength quickly, such as Olympic weightlifters, footballers, or gymnasts.
Other sports such as basketball, volleyball and tennis can also benefit from having greater power. Jumping to grab a rebound requires leg strength, while forcefully hitting a volleyball requires a mixture of upper-and lower-body power.
Combine speed and resistance to increase your power with fast-paced strength training moves like:
- Plyometric jumps
- Sprinting with a weighted sled and pushing it
- Clean and efficient jerk lifts
- Kettlebell swings
Weight training for power
You might picture a 100-metre sprint as speed. Speed, by its nature, is subjective. An elite 100-metre sprinter must be very, very fast but only for 10 seconds.
If a marathon runner is looking to improve their speed in order to set a personal record, they might look to decrease their per-mile pace from 10 to 9.5 minutes. This would be a speed they would need to maintain for just over four hours.
The fictional athletes train differently but have the same goal: To become faster at their chosen sports. The sport you train for will affect the speed of your training. Regardless of your sport, high intensity interval Training (HIIT), is the best way to increase speed.
This training involves working hard for long periods, with little rest, to challenge your anaerobic and aerobic systems. It will help your muscles, heart and lungs get used to higher intensity.
Your sport will dictate the length of the intervals and how challenging they are. Runners might try HIIT speed drills.
- For marathon training Try mile repetitions. A style of interval training that allows runners to run for miles before stopping and resting.
- Focus on shorter intervals for sprint training A sprinter should run shorter, harder intervals of 40- to 400 metres in length. Then, rest before running again.
These same principles are applicable whether you’re looking to improve your swimming, cycling or other sports like basketball and soccer. Interval training, which consists of bouts of intense exercise specific to your sport, can improve your speed.
Interval Training for Speed
Agility can be described as the ability to move fast and change directions quickly. Basketball players are an example of this agility. They need to be agile in all directions. Their bodies need to be taught how to react and change course quickly.
Many agility drills involve exercises that increase foot speed and direction changing, such as:
- Ladder drills Use an agility ladder to quickly and precisely place your feet.
- Cone drilling: Place cones in a star or “T”, then sprint, slide and backpedal or change direction according to the cone you’re looking at.
The Best Agility Exercises for Athletes
A variety of sports and activities demand a high level of hand-eye (or feet-eye) coordination. These include badminton. You must be able and able to see external objects and use your hands or feet to accomplish a predetermined objective.
Imagine hitting a golf ball off a green, catching a flyball, or blocking an opponent’s shot in hockey or soccer. You can improve your coordination by doing exercises like:
- Playing catch
- Jumping rope
- A ball is dribbled
- Tossing objects at targeted targets
To be able compete in their sport, gymnasts need to have a high level of balance. Balance training can also be beneficial for other athletes.
Balance refers to the ability to adjust your body’s position to maintain your upright posture. It is a term that refers to the ability to adjust your body’s position to stay upright. 4
Balance plays an important role in many sports, as well as in many other activities. Balance training can be beneficial to trail runners as it can prevent them from rolling over or falling after slipping or tripping on a root. These exercises can help you balance better.
- Standing on one Foot
- Standing Yoga poses
- BOSU ball exercises
- balance discs for squats or lunges. pushups
Perform standard strength training movements on an unstable surface to improve your balance and strength.
Balance Training & Proprioception Exercises
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Reaction time is the speed at which you can react to an external stimulus. For example, think about a tennis match. When the ball hits their opponent’s racket, the best players sprint to the place where they expect the ball bounce.
Your mind-body relationship is key to your reaction time. Your eyes perceive a stimulus and your brain interprets it. Then your body reacts accordingly.
A lot of this mind-body reaction can be attributed to knowledge of the sport/activity in question. An expert tennis player can see the movement of a ball and almost instantly predict its movements. This knowledge allows them react faster (and more accurately) to the stimulus.
On the other side, a beginner tennis player may be able see the ball come off an opponent’s racket but will not be able interpret it as quickly. This can lead to a slower reaction time. Although reaction-time training is usually sport-specific, these activities can be helpful:
- Fielding a ball (softball or baseball)
- As the other players try and score, you must protect the goal (soccer/hockey/lacrosse).
- Tools like lopsided reaction ball
- Hacky sack and table tennis
Many athletes find that improving their reaction time is possible by gaining more sport experience and performing drills specific to the sport.
A Word from Verywell
You should first focus on your health-related components of exercise if it is your first time or if you have been sedentary. You will see changes in your day by increasing your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. You may lose some weight or gain muscle which will help improve your body composition.
Once you have a solid foundation for fitness, you can start to train to improve performance-related parameters. You can increase your performance in your chosen sport by focusing on six skill-related fitness components. A qualified coach or personal training professional can help you get started.