The Three Areas of Fitness.
There are three essential areas to fitness- strength, mobility, and conditioning. If you are super strong but can’t run a mile, you aren’t really in great overall shape. If you can run a marathon but can’t do a pull-up…you get the picture. This idea is taken straight from Jim Wendler’s article.
I think programs like Crossfit and P90X do a good job of pushing you in all three areas, but I would say (at least for P90X) that you will reach a certain level of strength and then stall out.
Depending on your specific goals and what sports/other activities you do, you will tend to lean more towards one area than the others. I’m currently more focused on strength than conditioning and mobility, but I’m trying to find a proper balance and be healthy in all three.
You will find that being healthy in all areas allows you to have greater progress in the area you are focused on. Having great mobility is essential to improving your squat. Strength training improves your speed in distance running. All three areas impact each other.
Here are some resources that I’ve found helpful in learning how to train in these three areas:
Stronglifts 5x5- a great program for people just getting into powerlifting. It’s simple, has a free app with a great interface, and you progress quickly in weights with this program. While the program is simple, it forces you to learn good form. You can use this program for 6 months to a year, really until you start plateauing. It’s also a great intro into the world of Mark Rippetoe, whose book Starting Strength is essentially the Bible of Powerlifting.
5/3/1- Once you’ve ‘graduated’ or gotten bored with Stronglifts, I think Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 is the next step in your powerlifting journey. I’ll have to write a whole other blog post for why I love this program, but for now I’ll just say this- When you first get into an exercise program you see quick, drastic results. Then they slow down and your gains come more slowly, and you have to be strategic and ready to grind it out. 5/3/1 seems to be like the best program to grow gradually in strength for the long haul. He also has a cheap book that’s an easy read that gives you a great rundown on the program.
Yoga- The obvious choice for flexibility, but make sure that you are strategic in how you incorporate this into your lifting schedule. Here is a great article on yoga for lifters.
The Agile 8- Commit to this stretching regiment and you’ll see massive improvements in your form and strength for squats, deadlifts, and more.
In general, with conditioning, you want to do HIIT exercises that aren’t brutal on your joints. Hill sprints, prowler pushes, rowing machine, burpees, jump rope…all of these will do the trick.
Here is a great article on this idea.