There are some key areas of fitness that can be targeted to improve sport performance as seen below. This is your quick and dirty whistle stop tour into what they are and how to improve.
The longer it lasts, the greater the endurance. This can be short, high intensity exercises like sprinting versus ultra-marathons. It can be broken into two distinct areas: cardiorespiratory and muscular endurance, also known as stamina. This can be improved with continuous running, Fartlek running, or interval running (short & fast versus long & slow).
The range of movement in a joint during passive movements. Flexibility can prevent injuries because the muscle is able to move further before an injury occurs (have you ever tried to do the splits and regretted that decision horribly the next day?). It can also improve speed and agility by maximising muscle range. It depends in part upon the sport – gymnasts are far more flexible than rugby players – however individual differences will also play a role; some people just have longer and looser ligaments than others! Static stretching can improve flexibility.
Pretty much what it says on the tin – obviously some people are na
turally quicker than others, we can’t all be Usain Bolt, but speed is an indicator of fitness. The quickest way to improve speed is by improving your body composition and increasing general physical prep e.g. start exercising more. Technique training, acceleration sprints, and reaction drills are good ways of improving speed.
This is the ability to exert a maximum force. Power = speed + strength. This can be broken into absolute, aerobic, anaerobic, limit, and speed categories and each one has different training methods. Obviously, it’s important to recognise again that individual differences will play a role – I’m 5ft2 and will never be able to lift as much as the Mountain from Game of Thrones. Strength exercises include free weights, circuit training, fixed apparatus – and remember never skip leg day.
This focuses on how well you can apply explosive movements to rapid changes of direction – think Sonic the Hedgehog. It requires good balance, speed, co-ordination, and strength, among others. Very important when marking the opposition who will be trying to escape from you e.g. in netball. Agility is developed with short sprints and sharp turns around a set of markers, the Illinois Agility Test is a common one.