The Physical Demands of Sports:

Fitness Training Tips for Building Fitness Components

The physical demands of sports determine which fitness components should be targeted in training. Energy requirements of sports guide coaching decisions about the types and proportions of training activities that will best prepare athletes for the competition.

Once you identify which fitness components are most important, you have a foundation upon which you can build a fitness training program. The program can then be revised to accommodate the more specific requirements of positions, as well as the individual needs of particular athletes.

Overall Fitness Demands of a Sport

One approach to designing a fitness training program is to rate the fitness components by importance in sport competition and prioritize them accordingly. Ratings can be low, moderate, or high, or combinations of low-moderate or moderate-high. (1)

Those components that you rate as high and moderate-high are ones to emphasize, so select training activities that will target them the most.

A few words of wisdom about determining the physical demands of sports:

*Don't get overburdened with classifications--just estimate.

*Build the right balance of targeted training activities during off-season training phases and maintain them during the competitive season.

Aerobic/Anaerobic (energy requirements): Does the sport require continuous, sustained activity, short bursts of intense activity, or a combination of both?

Examples: Distance running is high aerobic, low to moderate anaerobic. Javelin throwing is high anaerobic, low aerobic. Soccer is high for both. Archery is low for both.

This concerns how intense activities are, how long they last, and how much recovery time is needed in between bouts of activity.

Developing a training program that matches the energy requirements of your sport addresses the physiological and metabolic demands associated with the Specificity Principle.


Strength: To what extent is moving maximum resistances important?

Examples: Strength is high for Olympic lifters, but low for marathon runners. Basketball requires moderate to high strength levels.

Be clear about the type of strength (isometric, isotonic) and much of is needed in your sport, which muscle groups should be emphasized. Decide how it is combined with other components (e.g., strength-endurance) when determining the physical demands of sports.

Speed: To what extent are speed, quick reactions, and rapid movements physical demands of sports?

Examples: Sprints and tennis require high speed of movement, whereas speed is of low to moderate importance for bowling.

Estimate the balance of speed, strength and/or endurance and which skills demand the greatest speed development.

Power: To what extent are power (speed and strength together), acceleration, and explosiveness important?

Examples: Softball pitching and hitting require high power development. A goalie in ice hockey needs low to moderate power.

Match your training program with how frequently power required, how long power-related activities last, and how much recovery time.

Agility: To what extent is moving quickly while changing directions important?

Examples: Agility is of high importance in gymnastics, but of low importance in golf.

Endurance: To what extent is repeating submaximal muscle contractions for long periods of time important?

Examples: Endurance is high for long distance rowing events and cross country skiing, but low to morderate for ski jumping.

Consider how strength and/or speed are combined with muscular endurance.

Flexibility To what extent is moving through long ranges of motion at joints important?

Examples: Flexibility is of high importance for diving, but low to moderate for long distance speed skating.

Focus on the joints that require the greatest flexibility in competition and how increasing the range of motion at specific joints can improve sport performance.

Determining Demands of Sports

*What physical demands of your sport have not been met by fitness training in the past and, perhaps, compromised your competitive edge?

*What fitness training skills can positively transfer to other training activities and sport skills? See Transfer of Training

*Which training activities can help prevent sport-related injuries?

*How will you refine your training program to match the physical demands of various positions?

*How will you refine your training program to accommodate individual differences?


*Fitness and sport skill testing can play a role in refining a fitness training program for any groups of athletes or individuals.

*When developing the total sports training program, fitness training to meet the physical demands of a sport must complement training for the psychological, tactical, and technical skill demands of the sport. See Sport Skills

Pages related to the physical demands of sports:

Agility Fitness

Endurance Fitness

Fitness Components

Definition of Fitness

Power Fitness

Strength Fitness

Top of Physical Demands of Sports

Back to Sports Fitness Training

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1. Martens, R. (2004). Successful coaching(3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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