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What is Cross Training and What are the Benefits From Whole Body Workouts

No you must have miss-read the title. This is not about CrossFit, this is about the benefits of cross training. I do in fact think that certain aspects of CrossFit are great to do, but in all honesty if you really break it down to the basics….CrossFit is just glorified circuit training. It just happens to have a brand behind it. However, CrossFit and cross training have a key overlap – they both promote a whole body fitness and incorporate a number of different exercises that challenge your strength and power, but also your aerobic and anaerobic systems.  Cross Training is a great way to improve your performance.  A clever man once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” so, if you are struggling to improve in your training, then try something new.  Oh and that man was Albert Einstein.

Benefits of Cross Training Exercises for Weight Lifters

The vast majority of “Average Joe’s” vastly neglect the importance of cross training. This is applies especially to men, who tend to fall into two categories, the runners and the ‘power’ guys (those who love the weights. The runners are fleet of foot but struggle to do a pull-up, whereas the power guys can bench three times their body weight but are out of breath when walking up stairs (and could probably do with losing a bit of ‘insulation’).

This is just an example. in fact both the runners and the power guys should do more of what the other does…and probably try something else as well. For instance, the heavy set weight lifters should run more, but also maybe try swimming. This would not only improve their aerobic capacity but also increase shoulder flexibility and therefore help with range of movement and reduce injury.

Almost all professional sports men and women cross train. For the vast majority of professionals, cross training is an accepted part of their training regimes. Even the biggest and best body builders in the world cross trained, huge names such as Ronnie Coleman and Arnold Schwarzenegger – multi Mr Olympia winners. They were professional enough to realize that they could not win by only lifting weights, so they looked to other sports for the competitive edge…sports such as ballet. Yes, ballet.  Ridiculous as it might sound and indeed look – huge, cartoon shaped men doing ballet, it paid off for them both.

They had improved posture so that they could hold more striking poses and also improved flexibility….proven by the fact that Ronnie Coleman finished his routine by doing the splits!

Prevent injury by improving flexibility with Cross Training Workouts

So how would cross training benefit the Average Joe? One of the most important benefits of cross training is that it challenges your body to improve. It puts stress on different muscles and ligaments and forces them to become stronger. Subsequently, cross training can greatly improve performance – do you think Sir Chris Hoy got those ludicrously big thighs by simply cycling? No, he loves the leg press, squats and dead lifts.

It is also great for reducing injury, especially for those who are in sports which make them susceptible to RSI (repetitive strain injuries) such as running, squash or swimming. Runners can benefit significantly from substituting one of their runs for a session on the bike or in the pool. These non-weight bearing exercises are great for cross training. Alternatively, they could spend an hour in the gym improving power and strength with squats and dead lifts (low impact). Swimmers could swap a pool session for weights and core stability, two factors that would almost certainly help their speed in the water.

CrossFit – Basics of Circuit training

CrossFit is effectively glorified circuits – but I do not think this is a bad thing. Circuits are popular among sports professionals, and are another example of cross training. Admittedly circuits can be tailored to be akin to their specific sport but are still a form of cross training. It is also an example of how weights do not always have to be heavy to be hard – use high repetition and compound movements to burn more fat. Circuits give a session much more structure and be as challenging as you want them to be. If you do a fully comprehensive circuits session then your legs, core and upper body should be worked. In this way cross training is a great way to ensure you have a ‘whole body’ fitness.

Finally, and probably most importantly, cross training is a great way to keep your training schedule interesting. A large proportion of people do not hit their desired targets or even stop their fitness regime altogether due to boredom. This is especially poignant for individual sports such as swimming, cycling or running, where sessions can tend to be rather repetitive. If you are a runner, swimmer or cyclist, then it might be worth trying to fit a Monday night team sport session in such as football.

No matter how much you enjoy one particular sport, there will be sessions that you find slightly tedious. Swap these for cross training sessions that remind you why you love sport. Have some fun….wasn’t that why we all loved running around chasing balls and what not when we were young?!

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