Athletes of all kinds are diversifying. World-class runners incorporate cycling and weight training while cyclists are doing more running and stair stepping. Professional basketball players use weight training, running and jump ropes to improve their performances.
How can cross training improve your performance and decrease your injuries?
There are three ways that cross training can help you. Sport specific training is important to improve your performance but consistent training can sometimes lead to overuse injuries that will sideline an athlete.
Cross training decreases your body fat content, allows a greater average workout intensity and greater strength in opposing muscle groups.
Take running for instance. Runners who add an extra 30 minutes to their routine each week can lose one extra pound of fat every 10 weeks, provided they maintain their usual running schedule and don’t increase their calorie intake. If those extra minutes are spent cycling the athlete decreases their chance of overuse injuries. On the other hand, if those additional minutes are performed running the athlete unnecessarily increases their chance of injury.
By cross training athletes are able to improve their mental performance and gain greater average workout intensity. Again, using running as the example, an athlete cannot perform at peak intensity at each workout. With that knowledge athletes can cross train using cycling, weight training, cross country skiing and deep water running to increase their average intensity and decrease their mental fatigue.
And last, but certainly not least, is the greater strength that athletes gain in sport specific muscle groups as well as opposing muscles through cross training. This increased muscle strength decreases the number of muscle cells needed for the athletes usual race intensity. This saves energy and makes the athlete more economical.
So, when does cross training not work?
To improve performance athletes should be doing sport specific work. When their cross training doesn’t exercise the muscles that are specific to their sport the cross training doesn’t improve their performance. BUT it does continue to improve mental fatigue, and increase lean muscle mass.
The jury on cross training changes it’s mind every decade or so. The current research shows that cross training can be an effective deterrent for overuse injuries while still maintaining strength. It doesn’t, however, increase performance.
Cross training is an option for athletes who want to increase their intensity, improve their strength without risking overuse injuries.
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