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What is Cross Training? How it Improves Performance

Published October 19, 2019
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

<article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What is Cross Training?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">What Activities are Considered Cross Training?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">3 Benefits of Cross Training</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">What is an Example of Cross Training?</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Cross-Training—Wrap-Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p align="justify">If your goal was to be a better runner, it might be strange to think that strength training or yoga could help you achieve that goal. But that’s what cross training is—intentionally using different workout methods to keep you well-rounded and injury-free.</p> <p align="justify">Even if you’re new to working out, it’s worth your while to understand exactly how it can improve your performance.</p> <p align="justify">Here’s what you should know about cross training, a list of cross-training activities and the benefits of adding them to your routine.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <h2 id="section1">What is cross training?</h2> <p align="justify">According to the <i>American Council on Exercise (ACE)</i>, cross training is an exercise routine that incorporates different types of training with the end goal of developing one specific component of fitness <sup>1</sup>.</p> <p align="justify">Cross training can be done as a replacement workout or on top of the training you’re already doing.</p> <p align="justify">Cross-training is especially popular among endurance athletes who spend the majority of their workouts training for one specific thing (like biking or running). But cross training can be helpful no matter what your goals are, if you use it correctly. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="senior-man-cycling-outdoors"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <h2 id="section2">What activities are considered cross training?</h2> <p align="justify">Depending on your fitness goals, most physical activities could be considered cross training. Here are some examples:</p> <ul> <li>Hiking</li> <li>Walking</li> <li>Weight training</li> <li>Core training</li> <li>Running</li> <li>Biking</li> <li>Swimming</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Yoga or pilates</a></li> <li>Zumba </li> </ul> <p align="justify">And you can still cross train even if your goals are health or aesthetic focused. For example, you might be using high-intensity workouts to <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">burn fat</a>. Those workouts would make up the brunt of your training. </p> <p align="justify">In a scenario like this, you might supplement yoga to keep muscles loose or long walks to burn extra calories. These are examples of cross training. Improving your yoga or walking speed isn’t your main goal, but both activities contribute in a unique way to you burning more fat.</p> <p align="justify">Now let’s look at 3 of the main benefits of cross training.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="group-workout-stretch-bands"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <h2 id="section3">3 Benefits of cross training</h2> <h3>1. Reduced risk of injury</h3> <p align="justify">Cross training forces your body to work different ways and reduces the risk of repetitive-use injuries and muscle imbalances <sup>2</sup>. </p> <p align="justify">Varied exercise forces your joints to stabilize in different settings, making you more adept at different forms of movement.</p> <p align="justify">According to <i>ACE</i>, changing the type of exercise you do ensures no one muscle gets overdeveloped, which can lead to pain or diminishing performance in workouts <sup>3</sup>.</p> <p align="justify">And while you might get really good at one type of exercise by constantly focusing on it, you won’t develop a rounded base of fitness. </p> <h3>2. Burn more calories</h3> <p align="justify">If your goal is to lose weight, and you’re using cross training as an additional workout to your routine, the additional physical activity will help you burn more calories.</p> <p align="justify">After all, even one additional hour of low-impact exercise burns about 360 extra calories <sup>5</sup>. </p> <p align="justify">Here are some other examples of the number of calories you’ll burn in one hour <sup>5</sup> (according to <i>Mayoclinic</i>):</p> <ul> <li>Dancing, 219 calories</li> <li>Leisurely biking, 292 calories</li> <li>Hiking, 438 calories</li> <li>Water aerobics, 402 calories</li> </ul> <p align="justify">And even if you’re using it as a replacement for your regular workout, cross training might help you burn more calories over time by helping you stick with your routine—see the third benefit.</p> <h3>3. Psychological benefits</h3> <p align="justify">One of the most important factors for adherence to a new exercise routine—basically “sticking with it”—is enjoyment <sup>4</sup>. </p> <p align="justify">It sounds simple, but if you aren’t having fun or working out feels like a chore you <i>must</i> do, you’re far less likely to do it consistently.</p> <p align="justify">Because cross training offers variety, it may help you <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">stay motivated</a> to get your workout in. </p> <p align="justify">Many different exercise types qualify as cross training. You can take a class with friends or sweat it out with a workout buddy. Don’t overlook the fun aspect of your workouts—it’s important!</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="lower-body-woman-squat"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <h2 id="section4">What is an example of cross training?</h2> <p align="justify">Here’s a concrete example of cross training. Pretend your goal was to walk or run a five-kilometer race by the end of the year. On top of your specific walking and running workouts, you might ‘cross train’ by incorporating <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">lower-body resistance exercises</a> into your training to strengthen your legs or <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">core workouts</a> to improve midline stability.</p> <p align="justify"><i>Why incorporate strength training?</i> Because research shows increasing strength can make you faster (5). So, you make progress toward your goal of running or walking a faster 5k by training in a completely different way. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <h2 id="section5">Cross training—wrap-up</h2> <p align="justify">Adding different styles of training to whatever you’re already doing can help prevent muscle imbalances and repetitive use injuries, keep your workouts more interesting, and help you lose weight quicker.</p> <p align="justify">There’s no ‘right’ way to add cross training to your regimen. Simply start with a few minutes on <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">active recovery days</a> or after your regular training sessions and build up over time.</p> <h3>Resources:</h3> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">What is cross training and why is it important?</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Injury Prevention – Cross Training</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6 Things to Know About Muscle Imbalances</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5 Factors That Help People Stick to a New Exercise Habit</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">Effects of Strength Training</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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