Cross-training is a fantastic exercise or training that prepares athletes and prevents injury. While it has been used in the past, it is still a new training concept. Studies show that athletes who cross-train are more fit and less vulnerable to injury.
Therefore, if you prefer spending all your time on the golf course or basketball court, practicing alternative exercises in your workout program can boost your performance overall and in your niche.
What Is Cross-Training?
Cross-training means using activities beyond the regular drills and exercises commonly related to a sport to attain overall conditioning. It allows the body to rest from everyday sport-specific activities and maintain movement.
Generally, cross-training offers a break from the usual effect of training in a specific sport, providing a brief rest to the muscles, tendons, bones, joints, and ligaments, and the activity targets the muscles from another angle or resistance, leading to overall athletic balance.
Some common cross-training activities involve weight training, swimming, cycling, running, and skiing. Another incredible cross-training activity is circuit training and plyometrics, which employ the speed and force of various movements to build muscle power.
Benefits Of Cross-Training
- Conditions the whole body, not just specific muscle groups—something you won’t achieve without focusing on just one form of activity.
- Exercising different muscle groups enables the muscles to adapt to new activities quickly.
- It provides flexibility in the training regime (if you cannot engage in weight-bearing activities or are restricted due to injury, non-weight-bearing exercises such as swimming are helpful).
- It reduces exercise boredom because you have several activities to consider rather than the same drill.
- It minimizes the risk of overuse injury by alternating how muscles are used and enabling others to rest and recover.
- It enhances your skill, agility, and balance.
How Does Cross Training Prevent Injuries?
🔹 Provides Active Rest For Muscles Used In A Sport
Cross-training can significantly reduce injuries caused by repetitive strain. It relieves commonly used muscles in a sport, alleviating the daily stresses on weight-bearing joints, muscles, and tendons by reducing the overall pressure endured.
The muscles may still be engaged, even intensely, without the usual impact or from another angle. Then, the muscles can recover from the wear and tear accumulated over a season. This active rest is an effective recovery tool rather than total rest and propels the body to adapt to different stimuli.
For instance, in sports that prioritize running, swimming can be employed as a cross-training tool for alleviating the stresses placed on the body while still working the same muscles.
🔹 Correct Muscle Imbalances In The Body That Can Lead To Injuries
Cross-training also alleviates or reverses muscle imbalances that may cause injuries. For example, a tennis player may suffer muscle imbalances in the dominant side of his body, particularly in the shoulder of the serving arm.
Several servings over a season will make the muscles in the playing arm stronger while supporting and unaffected muscles get weaker without training. Cross-training can enable balanced strength and stability of muscles on both the dominant and non-dominant sides.
This balancing of strength and flexibility prevents one muscle group, due to a strength imbalance, from disrupting the body’s natural alignment. Furthermore, it is a preventive measure against muscle strain and tears caused by one muscle exerting more force than the antagonist group can handle.
Examples Of Cross-Training
- A cyclist may swim to develop upper body strength and to maintain cardiovascular endurance, as well as consider cross-country skiing to maintain leg strength and endurance when snow and ice affect biking time.
- Swimmers may consider free weight training to build and maintain strength levels, as well as engaging in rock climbing to increase upper body strength and endurance.
- Runners may try mountain biking to engage their leg muscles from different angles, including considering deep water running to reduce the impact while preserving a conditioning schedule.
- A shot putter may consider Olympic weightlifting exercises to develop overall explosiveness, including using plyometrics and sprinting to build the required explosiveness in the hips and legs.
Cross-training means using activities outside the usual drills and exercises commonly associated with a sport to achieve overall conditioning. It can also help to prevent injury by providing active rest for muscles used in a sport and correcting muscle imbalances in the body that can lead to injuries.