Four Pillars of Fitness

1. Cardiovascular

2. Resistance strength/power/stability

3. Flexibility

4. Proprioception

These four main building blocks form the foundation of overall physical fitness. Depending on your background experience with sport, dance, or even labor, you will likely identify more with one or two of these than the others.

Football players will most strongly identify with strength and power in the weight room and on the field. To a lesser extent cardio fitness will be a smaller part of their programming in the context of number of reps of sprinting, lifting, and occasionally endurance training.

Dancers as another extreme are predominantly focused on balance and posture. The ability to find a position in three dimensional space is proprioception. The precision in dance is met with a great display of flexibility and sweeping arcs of motion. Yet muscle tone and endurance are secondary outcomes of these primary and secondary foci.

In any sport it is relatively easy to identify primary fitness concerns. In soccer speed and endurance enhance cardiovascular fitness,while muscle strength and flexibility might suffer. Boxing is power. Basketball is cardio. Track is obvious. And so on.

All that being said, without attention to each of the four pillars, overall physical wellbeing suffers. If you play a sport, any sport, a day of yoga or Pilates may be of great benefit. If you’re a baseball player don’t forget to balance out muscle strength and endurance on each side of your body. Test range of motion on both sides and in each direction to be sure your neglect doesn’t lead to increasing risk of injury. If you dance, lift weights or grab resistance bands in your workout at least once per week.

Obviously there’s opportunity cost to attending to one sort of exercise while burning the time that might’ve been allocated to increased reps in a specific sport-based skill. In the past free play allowed for young people to test their capacity and understand their limitations. Variation in games, both organized and those that were invented on the fly, allowed these pillars to unconsciously be tested and cast into the cauldron.

As our society specializes more and more, we must create space for children and adults alike to explore movement and activity that encourages each of the four pillars to maximize our physical potential for wellbeing.

Understand that fitness and wellbeing are not always on display in the velocity of a fastball or a soccer goal attempt from a an elite player. Sport should ideally provide us foundations for health and social connection.

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