Flexibility, Conditioning and Strength

Three Pillars of Fitness

1) Flexibility

Of great importance is flexibility. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that strength can be achieved without a proper flexibility.

But what is and how can you achieve flexibility?

Flexibility isn’t just a static stretching before and/or after the workout. It extends much further to muscle tissue quality, fascia of the muscle, joint capsule quality, the strength of prime mover muscles, joint stabilizers and core muscles, ability to control movements, reflexes, pain tolerance…

As you can see, the old way of gaining flexibility, static stretching, is outdated and is not smart at all; if you stretch a muscle to the point of maximal length and not strengthen it, your brain will try to shorten it because that length is not safe! Most likely, if you do this drastically too often while not gaining strength, injuries will happen…

YES, I know, we’ve been all though in school to stretch muscles for “injury preventing” but it turns out that that’s BS! 🙂

So my suggestions are:

  • Always aim for a perfect form, but if you can’t, try to decrease the load until you’re able to perfect form. If you’re still compensating, try to examine where and what is your problem. Until you fix it, find some other exercise for that muscle group.
  • Practice dynamic as well as static stability of the core muscles!
  • Try different exercises and movements now and then…
  • Some activities like yoga, pilates, gymnastics, fighting disciplines…have a lot of exercises for stability, mobility, and flexibility, so try them out.
  • Most problems with flexibility come from the muscles/joints around the spine first, then shoulders (scapula) and hips, so make sure you’re exercising those muscles too.

There are a lot of information on the topic of flexibility, but for now, let’s stop here and let this new knowledge sink in because I’ve confronted the “we all know this” belief…

2) Conditioning

When we talk conditioning, there are two main concepts: energy systems and cardiovascular system. Although some people avoid, it’s of great importance to spend your time on conditioning because of the benefits you get (that I will show you now).

We don’t need to talk details about the cardiovascular system, just to point out that if you do any exercise that changes your blood pressure and heart beating rhythm, you’re doing cardiovascular exercises. So basically every exercise you do is a cardiovascular exercise.

Energy systems are a bit more important so they need to be understood properly. So, we have three energy systems that muscles use. I’ll try to explain them in these short sentences:

  • Aerobic – is when using oxygen as a fuel, it depends on the cardiovascular system, it produces a lot of energy but slower and also it helps in recovering other systems…used in activities like aerobics, running, Zumba…
  • ANaerobic Lactic –  it doesn’t use oxygen due to anaerobic conditions, it’s using much energy for hard work, it’s energy “inefficient” and you must stop after around a minute or two…used in activities like lifting in the gym.
  • ANaerobic ALactic – no oxygen, for explosive movements, it’s using too much energy for really short periods of time… used for activities like sprinting, CrossFit, powerLifting…

…in this graph, you can see how energy systems are being used:

My practical tip for energy systems is to change activities often and don’t be dumb enough to skip conditioning. Also, in case you’re not satisfied with your body fat percentage, conditioning is right for you!

3) Strength

“Do you even lift, bro?”

Strength is the third and the final pillar of fitness. Why is final? Well, with good flexibility and conditioning, it should be easier to increase your strength. Also, it’s the one that is needed…well the least. Only professionals need some extra strength, while the rest of us want to look great and not have any pain…come on, let’s be honest!

But ok, sometimes you need strength for the purpose of more dense muscles and better looks. In this table, I’ve shown the three phases on muscle building (it’s from the post: How to Shape Your Body>>):

I this program, the first phase is all about conditioning, the second is a mixture of conditioning and strength building, and the third phase is all about strength building. Use the table to see, from the third phase, how the strength is built!

Conclusion

There is a reason why they are called the “pillars.” You can focus on one, but the rest will suffer and the one you’re focusing on will suffer too. Don’t skip any, and you’ll see how rewarding it is to be FIT! 🙂

It goes like this: first flexibility, then conditioning and in the end strength. Not the other way around.


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