What is Functional Fitness?

What is Fitness? Part 1: 10 General Physical Skills

Vital has adopted the 3 standards of evaluating fitness: the 10 General Physical Skills, capability at random physical tasks, and competency in the 3 Metabolic Pathways.

What is important to note, is that these skills are developed in different ways. Endurance, Stamina, Strength, and Flexibility are organic (observable) changes in the body, and come about through training. Coordination, Agility, Balance and Accuracy are neurological changes in the body, and come about through practice. Power and Speed are adaptations of both training and practice. 

10 General Physical Skills Defined 

  1. Endurance (Cardiovascular/Respiratory)

    - The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen. 

  2. Stamina

    - The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.

  3. Strength

    - The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.

  4. Flexibility

    - The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.

  5. Power

    - The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time. 

  6. Speed

    - The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement. 

  7. Coordination

    - The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.

  8. Agility

    - The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.

  9. Balance

    - The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base. 

  10. Accuracy

    - The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

If the goal is to be truly fit, you will need balanced training in each of these skills. This is the very reason why you should not cherry pick your workouts. The workouts involving your weaknesses are actually more important to attend, as you will see greater improvement each session over a skill set you already dominate. 

What is Fitness? Part 2: Capability at Random Physical Tasks

In the previous section, we touched on the 3 standards to evaluate fitness, and went deeper into the 1st standard: the 10 General Physical Skills. Here we will explain the 2nd standard in more detail: the capability to perform at random physical tasks. 

True fitness is about performing well at each and every physical task imaginable. If we were to put every possible physical task into a hopper, and randomly pick a workout, would you be a little nervous? Would it cause anxiety as to what you may be asked to perform? Maybe it's a 10k run, or a max effort lift, or a combination of movements you struggle with. Could anything come out of the hopper that would make you fully incapable of doing the workout? Improving your weaknesses is the single best thing you can do for your overall fitness. Progress can actually be accelerated through simply developing your faults. 

"Unknown and Unknowable" is used to describe what we train for. Prepare for the physical tasks that life will randomly throw your way, and the best way to do this is by fixing your weaknesses. You're only as strong as your weakest link, right? 

True fitness demands the ability to perform well at all tasks, regardless if they are familiar or not. These tasks show up in constantly varying circumstances as well as combinations. Greg Glassman puts it perfectly, "Nature frequently provides largely unforeseeable challenges; train for that by striving to keep the training stimulus broad and constantly varied." In order to be optimally fit, training must involve a variance in repetitions, movements, loads, distances, times, rest intervals, order of exercises, and days/times of training. 

The most effective fitness program will improve your 10 general physical skills - Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance & Accuracy - thus, improving your ability at random physical tasks.

What is Fitness? Part 3: 3 Metabolic Pathways

Let's get science-y with the Three Metabolic Pathways.

We all know that the human body needs energy to function, but where does this energy come from? Ultimately, the energy that keeps us moving comes from the food we eat. However, we cannot use energy directly from food, it must first be converted into adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the immediate useable form of chemical energy utilized for all cellular function. The body does store a minimal amount of ATP within the muscles, but the majority is synthesized from the foods we eat.

Food is made up of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and these nutrients are broken down into their simplest forms (glucose, fatty acids and amino acids) during digestion. Once these nutrients are broken down, they are transported through the blood to either be used in a metabolic pathway or stored for later use.

Because we do not store a significant amount of ATP and need a continuous supply, it must be constantly resynthesized. This occurs in several ways using one of three energy systems:

  1. Phosphagen (immediate source)
  2. Anaerobic (somewhat slow, uses carbohydrates)
  3. Aerobic (slow, uses either carbohydrate or fat)


This system uses creatine phosphate (CP) and has a very rapid rate of ATP production. The creatine phosphate is used to reconstitute ATP after it's broken down to release its energy. The total amount of CP and ATP stored in muscles is small, so there is limited energy available for muscular contraction. It is, however, instantaneously available and is essential at the onset of activity, as well as during short-term high-intensity activities lasting about 1 to 30 seconds in duration, such as sprinting, weight-lifting or throwing a ball.

Anaerobic Glycolysis

Anaerobic glycolysis does not require oxygen and uses the energy contained in glucose for the formation of ATP. This pathway occurs within the cytoplasm and breaks glucose down into a simpler component called pyruvate. As an intermediate pathway between the phosphagen and aerobic system, anaerobic glycolysis can produce ATP quite rapidly for use during activities requiring large bursts of energy over somewhat longer periods of time (30 seconds to three minutes max, or during endurance activities prior to steady state being achieved).

Aerobic Glycolysis

This pathway requires oxygen to produce ATP, because carbohydrates and fats are only burned in the presence of oxygen. This pathway occurs in the mitochondria of the cell and is used for activities requiring sustained energy production. Aerobic glycolysis has a slow rate of ATP production and is predominantly utilized during longer-duration, lower-intensity activities after the phosphagen and anaerobic systems have fatigued.

It is important to remember that all three of these systems contribute to the energy needs of the body during physical activity. These systems do not work independently of each other, but rather dominate at different times, depending on the duration and the intensity of the activity.

Total fitness requires training each of these pathways. Our programming attempts to balance the effects of the three.