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The 6 Levels of Fitness Hierarchy

Table of Contents

Whether you’re just starting out on a fitness journey, training for an event, or somewhere in between, it’s important to remember that the human body is a complex machine capable of remarkable performance and generally responds in a very predictable manner. For example, if we’re sedentary and consume more energy than we use, we can expect to store body fat and experience system deconditioning. On the other hand, if we apply the right acute variables in a specific manner, we can predict physiological outcomes, e.g., system conditioning with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.

A common mistake many people make when starting an exercise program is the incorrect application of acute variables – such as weight load, sets, repetitions, and contraction tempo – related to their condition and goal. If you train like a basketball player when your goal is to be a weightlifter, you will not achieve the results you’re hoping for. Likewise if you haven’t been physically active for an extended period of time and decide to begin a fitness regimen, it’s important to select the right variables that take into account your current condition. 

To help us better understand this concept, let’s take a look at the Fitness Hierarchy of program design that can help reduce the risk of injury while maximizing the efficacy of their efforts with predictability.   

The 6 Levels of Fitness Hierarchy


This is the ability of a joint to move optimally through the proper range of motion without restriction. Joint function is foundational to advanced flexibility, stability, and force production. Posture is a static indicator of mobility and dynamic movement often exposes compensations in movement patterns and is an indicator of compromised mobility and joint action.


Muscle flexibility is the ability of soft tissues to lengthen and shorten with higher efficacy, which allows a joint to move through an optimal range of motion. The value of flexibility is relative to the application of force and is focused on the muscle, not the joint (as it is with mobility). For example, a male martial artist may need a particular value of muscular flexibility versus the needs of a female soccer player.


Structural stability is simply the encapsulation of joints by properly conditioned stabilization and synergistic muscle groups with higher balance potential, along with a neuromuscular response. The combination of mobility, flexibility, and stability reduces the risk of injury and improves force production.


Strength is defined by the ability to produce force, and more specifically, the ability of a muscle group to generate force at a specified or unchanging velocity. Muscle size is highly correlated to strength, however, other factors such as limb length, and muscle length also determine one’s strength. It’s important to build a sound base of strength before training for power.


When we move a given weight over a measured distance and time, we produce power. Abilities such as sprinting, jumping, explosiveness, and changing direction are most commonly associated with the concept of power, but power can be realized at slower speeds. Scientifically speaking, power is defined as the weight lifted multiplied by the vertical distance traveled, divided by the time to complete the repetition. So a person lifting a heavy mass at a slow rate will produce the same amount of power as another person lifting a much lighter mass at a much higher rate. Thus, power in program design is seen in both described methods and it is important to utilize each in program design.


Skill encompasses the qualities of discipline, motivation, care, and comprehension. Coordination can be a noticeable outcome of  these characteristics but is not the only result.Skill is also attention to detail repeated consistently and frequently to create the desired adaptation, and is the “it” of fitness training and the X factor that will make or break an exercise. An exerciser becomes highly skilled in an exercise when they can execute the required movements flawlessly with very little mental focus or effort while physical exertion remains high.

Fitness Is Achievable – with a Little Help

Incorporating all six of these hierarchies into a fitness program is key to overall conditioning, staying injury-free, and achieving your fitness goals. While this concept may seem foreign in a culture that values quick fixes over science-based and long-term work, these are elements you can learn and understand to take your fitness to the next level.

And if you need some extra support, the coaches here at Forge are ready to help you. Our team of fitness experts are certified and possess the knowledge needed to create a workout program that will fit your needs, current condition, and future goals. Reach out today for a consultation.