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Burn with Kearns: 7 Elements of Fitness – Kevin Kearns

By Kevin Kearns, Burn with Kearns

The 7 elements of fitness. Why you need them in your daily programming. How they can affect your overall health over 40

I love working out! As well I should as I’ve been doing it for 40 years now! Holy crap! That’s like 2 lifetimes. Over the years my philosophies and styles have changed. They also continue to change as I have been a personal fitness coach, performance coach and corporate wellness consultant for 30 years now. I have worked with some of the best UFC athletes in the world.  0 years ago, I was working with 15 MMA athletes. I have worked with actors like Kevin James, sports stars like Glen “Big Baby” Davis from the Celtics, Rasi Dowling from the Patriots and numerous college and high school athletes. The flip side of that is I also worked with other people in my age bracket (40, up to 88 years old ) that are just looking to stay healthy, feel better, look better, lose some weight, get more mobile, more flexible, lower than BP or cholesterol, get off meds , and feel good about themselves again , inside and out.  They also want to do in the most effective, efficient and safest way possible.  I have worked with business tycoons and blue collar people in that age range, and they all want the same results.

Now I mentioned the early part about my work with MMA athletes, and other athletes in general. The reason I mentioned that is years ago when I became involved and switched my whole thinking to functional strength training – my whole world changed. I no longer thought about isolation and made the connection with integration.

How the body works together as a unit, versus individual muscle groups. Which you figured I would know coming from a martial arts background, which is my first love for 40 years now.  When I’m throwing a jab or a cross, my body does not care how much I curl. When I’m throwing a Thai round house kick, my body does not care how much I leg press. When I inside control in BJJ, my body does not care how much I bench press, either. As I have been saying for years, bench pressing is great when you have a refrigerator parked on your chest.  Functional strength training is all about movement, strength you can use, and strengthening you from your toenails to your finger nails.

I remember the great bodybuilder, Frank Zane, at a seminar years ago in Boston when I was in my 20’s and he was north of 45. Someone asked him “How do you train daily, Mr. Zane ?” He answered, “Whatever does not hurt that day, I train.” With a smile. I thought back then that was crazy. When I was 20, I was thinking I’m going to be 40 tomorrow and I don’t want to live like that.

I was exposed to functional strength training in 1998 with JC Santana, Mike Clark, Vern Gambeta, Mike Boyle, and Grey Cook. I was fascinated. I completely left the bodybuilding world for this. There were some growing pains in the beginning, like “are my legs going to shrink if I don’t squat and leg press?”  How will I work my abs without crunches,” etc. I had to make a full paradigm shift into this world. Well, I did, and it paid off as well, as I’m now 54 and feel better than ever.

One of the key concepts I learned from these coaches was the 5 elements of fitness and how they play a role in everyday life, sports and activities. How they happen all the time and we don’t even think about it. We take them for granted. Hell, even getting in and out of your car and going to the grocery store they happen all the time.

What are they ?

1. Push

2. Pull

3. Level Change

4. Rotation

5. Locomotion

That being said, as I have grown wiser and always believe in my martial arts roots, “I’m always a beginner no matter the color of my belt.”  You can always learn more daily.

I have added 2 more elements to my Burn With Kearns system.

6. Balance

7. Static strength


Now let’s take a look at each one shall we. Whether you are a football lineman or an 85 year old lady going to the grocery store, you need to have push muscles. Correct? Yes, the same muscles you use to push that blocker off are the same she uses to push her carriage.

Some of the best motions for push

Push-ups of all kinds.

Bench presses off a stability ball

Turkish get-ups

Straight punches like jab and cross

For starters


Ok so whether you are a longshore man or a collegiate rower we need our pulling muscles to perform. The same muscles a longshore man uses to pull ropes in are the same for a rower.

Some of the best motions:

pull ups of all grips

inverted pull ups

medicine ball wood choppers

Muay Thai clinch work

Band rows

Bent Over DB rows

for starters

Level Change

So, a pro basketball player has to change levels to make a dunk, while a father has to squat down to pick up his kid. Pretty much the same muscles involved in the same motion.

Of course, there are plenty of other exercises as well.


One legged dead lifts

KB snatches

Med ball big circles

Band Poling

Bosu Sprawls


Here’s where many fitness plans and programming fall short in my 30 years of coaching. There is no rotation involved which means you are not activating your core effectively, working in the 3rd human plane of motion (transverse where most injuries happen) and not really strengthening your internal weightlifting belt (your transverse ado minus)

The baseball player needs to make a full swing to go for a home run. Same as the weekend warrior playing golf with his buddies to get out of the house and drink some beers on the weekend. They both need rotation.

Here’s some exercises for that plane of motion

Medicine ball Russian twists

Abdominal bicycles

Medicine ball diagonal chops

Band rotations

One arm KB snatches


Here’s a real good one that most gyms don’t do. We all need to be able to move off the line quicker. You don’t squat out of the way of a car, do you ? Of course not, you lunge! It’s the same for the football receiver as it is the dad playing softball on the weekends or hockey. You need to obtain some explosive endurance in your full body.

Here are some great exercises

Agility ladder drills upper and lower body


Kali footwork drills

Boxing footwork drills

Rebounding exercises


B A L A N C E we all need and as we get older, we all need it big time. Generally, when an athlete runs out of gas, there balance goes out the window. Unfortunately, as we get older that’s one of things that goes first, and we all notice. Clients will say “My balance sucks!”  “Or that’s all about balance”, “that’s not a real exercise and not needed. “Hmm, I say. Well, your balance was better when you were a kid because you were playing all the time and needed balance for everything. Whether it was riding your bike, playing hopscotch, or playing a sport, you needed balance and worked on it daily.  But unfortunately, as we all become old farts, we sit on our asses more, work too much, watch TV too much and don’t incorporate any type of balance work until we obtain an injury, and our PT tells us to.

So, whether you are Tom Brady pro quarterback or a dad or mom on the weekend skating or skiing with your kids, you need balance.

Some great exercises

one legged reached

one legged dead lifts

stability ball push ups

one legged dumbbell rows

one legged squats

Muay Thai round house kicks

to name a few

Static strength

The ability to hold a position for an extended period of time, without early fatigue. So, whether it’s standing in line at Starbucks, or planting in your garden, you are going to need static strength. The same strength a college goalie might need or MMA grappler, you are going need it as well. Whether it’s doing yard work, carrying your clubs 18 holes in the heat, or playing catcher for your local softball league, you are going to need this concept.

Some great exercises

Bridge pose in yoga

Chair pose in yoga

Clinch holding in Muay Thai

Push up holds bottom or top of motion

Split squat holds

Stability ball split legged squeezes    

So, you see as we get older and wiser, we need to take a good look at our objectives and goals. Do you want to just look better? Or feel better as well? Do you have to deadlift 600lbs and what’s that doing to your spine? Or are you content with doing 50 one-legged push-ups off the stability ball.

The next time you design your own program make sure you activate all these elements. You’ll feel better, burn more calories, and get a better workout. (I promise )

Coach Kearns

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Coach Kevin Kearns has been coaching in the world of fitness, nutrition, and tactical self defense for over 3 decades. As the former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pro Fighters, and ranked in the Top 5 in the UFC , he is no stranger to the the importance of proper nutrition and proper mindset programming. He has long advocated to all his clients – athletes or the general population – about the importance of programming mind, body and spirit. 

Coach Kevin Kearns BS FMS CPT – Former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pros Ranked in Top 5 by the UFC Personal Fitness Coach, Author, Columnist, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Wellness Consultant, Youth Wellness Program Provider, Certification Specialist, Personal Self Defense, and Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Specialist