Many pro athletes will try to vary their workouts by cross-training in other sports in a bid to boost performance and reduce the possibility of injuries. It’s no secret that weight training can do wonders to an athlete’s fitness levels but is weightlifting considered cross training?
When done right, weightlifting will not only make you a better athlete in your specialty, but IT’S also a superb cross training for building stamina and endurance.
Competitive weight trainers often make outstanding all-around athletes. Nowadays, coaches are trying to incorporate weightlifting in all field and track events from cycling to golf. Here’s all you need to know about cross training, its techniques, myths and why it’s essential.
What is Cross Training?
Cross training is essentially a fitness regimen that combines several methods of workouts to achieve a specific or combination of fitness goals. Cross training workouts do incorporate a host of functional body movements such as gymnastics, weightlifting, cycling, rowing, running and many more.
This exercise regime is becoming increasingly popular among pro athletes especially, runners, cyclists, NFL, NBA, and boxers.
Though it is necessary for athletes to train for the sport they indulge in, research shows that cross fit exercises do come in handy in maintaining high levels of overall fitness.
Too many people get stuck on single exercise regimes and end up experiencing a plateau, a phase that can be hard to surpass.
Fortunately, cross fit programs allow you to step out of your comfort zone and re-invent yourself by engaging in more dynamic programs.
According to Todd Schliftstein, a sports medicine rehabilitation specialist at New York University medical center, training for a single fitness activity like running or swimming, only works the muscles involved in that sport and may lead to an athlete being less fit in other aspects.
Schliftstein also warns that focusing on a single set of muscles puts stress and raises the probability of repetitive injury in that particular muscle. Today, most coaches and athletic trainers agree that training the whole body is one of the sure-fire ways of getting stronger for any specific sport.
The Benefits of Cross Training
Here are three reasons why you should try cross fit exercise regimes.
- Reduced risk of injuries
Usually, when people get injured on the field or at the gym, it’s often a consequence of overdoing a specific activity. Focusing solely on a single workout program puts your muscles, tendons, bones, joints, and ligaments under intense stress due to repeated motions.
Shuffling up your routine helps to spread the increasing level of stress to other muscles and joints while giving the overused ones a chance to rest and recover. Swimming, cycling, and elliptical training programs can be particularly helpful for professional football players and long-distance runners.
Such low impact activities reduce injury by boosting blood flow and nutrient delivery to the stressed muscle tissues. Cross training also helps athletes train for longer durations without overloading vulnerable body parts.
- Conditioning and enhanced body fitness
By combining several different workout strategies, you are essentially asking more of your body than with traditional regimes. Adhering to a single workout program is not only risky but can be boring as well. Cross training, on the other hand, introduces variety which increases capability and eliminates boredom.
These workouts cater to many needs simultaneously from gaining strength to improving cardio and building endurance.
- Enhanced fat loss and muscle gain
Cross training is ideal for losing body fat because it enables people to burn calories safely. Obese individuals can achieve weight reduction by combining two or more exercises in a cross-fit workout. Such persons can, for example, do cycling for half an hour; do light weightlifting for another thirty minutes then finish up with elliptical training for another 20 to 30 minutes.
Cross-Training Through Weightlifting
Personal best columnist Gina Kolata opines that the real benefits of cross-fit workouts are realized when athletes employ some form of resistant training in their regime. Indeed, weightlifting and the use of resistance machines are becoming more popular among many athletes universally.
Today, more football players are pumping iron and using resistance training for maximum strength. Soccer players and basketballers alike are also increasingly spending more time in weight rooms unlike before.
Many former pro athletes do admit that resistance training did play a pivotal role in their rise to prominence during their glorious days.
Improved muscle strength is often accompanied by more power which can translate to better performance depending on the sport involved.
Another study conducted by a team of Norwegian researchers on a group of experienced runners found a positive correlation between weightlifting and performance.
For the study, one group of runners was subjected to half squats with heavy weighs three times a week while continuing their running programs. The other group just stuck to running.
At the end of the study, those who incorporated squats into their workout regime improved running economy and could run for extended periods compared to the sole runners.
Improved running economy refers to the ability to run faster with all factors held constant, including oxygen intake. Overall, the weight trained runners also benefited from a 24% and 34% increase in upper and lower body strength respectively.
Swimmers have also been reported to get faster when they incorporate resistance training focusing on movements they employ during their strokes. Experts believe that weightlifting training is supporting muscle fibers in our legs and arms thus allowing athletes to rely on them to augment muscles during fatigue.
Common Weight Training Exercises for Cross-Fit Trainers
It’s important to understand that weight training is not created equally. Some workouts focus more on building strength while others will prioritize the improvement of your metabolism and cardio. If you don’t fancy using dumbbells or barbells, there are numerous ways you can add resistance using your body weight.
Below are a few examples of weight training exercises that professional and beginners can use as part of their cross training regime.
This category includes both squats and lunges which focus on the quad and glute leg muscles. Beginners should work with weights ranging from 10 to 25 pounds while advanced trainers are better off with weights starting from 25 points to 70% of their weight.
For the squats, adopt a standing position with dumbbells on both sides of your arms. Then slowly lower your body in an upright position while bending your knees with your thighs parallel to the floor. Slowly drive back up to your starting position.
Lunges employ a similar technique to squats only this time you will be taking steps forward one leg at a time. One set of either lunges or squats should comprise 8 to 12 repetitions. You should complete three sets for this exercise.
Deadlift is one of the essential workouts because it works multiple parts of the body simultaneously. This workout focuses on hamstrings, back, glutes and core muscles. For the deadlift, you can use dumbbells or barbells with weights ranging from 15 pounds to 70% of your body weight.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulder width and with a micro-bend in your knees. With the barbell or dumbbells in hand, hinge at your hips with the weights hanging in front of your shin. Pull your torso back and up to complete one rep. Repeat the sequence for three sets of 8 to 12 reps.
The beauty of pushups is that you can use your body weight and still have a proper workout. However, advanced trainers are free to add weighted plates on their backs for more resistance. Pushups work both chest and core muscles.
For the workout, start in high plank with your wrists directly beneath your shoulders. Then lower your chest to the floor by bending at the elbows. Once your body is parallel to the floor press back up to resume the initial position. Perform at least three sets with 10 to 15 repetitions.
Remember to keep your neck and spine aligned and don’t let your hips drop at any point during your repetitions.
4. Rows, rope climbs, and pull-ups
These sets of exercises are meant to work your upper body. Here you will primarily be working your back muscles, shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Upper body workouts are crucial for toning and bulking up. However, the goal here is to work in coordinated movements without isolating any particular muscle.
Though conventional wisdom dictates that you train for the specific sport you engage in, more coaches now appreciate the importance of cross training. The fundamentals of cross training remain the same regardless of whether you are training for the Olympics or just looking to get fit.
The bottom line is that weights do work when used correctly. Furthermore, implementing a variety of workouts into your routines won’t do any harm to your cycling or running; instead, it can help you complete your daily tasks with much more ease.
The moral of the story is that cross fit workouts do offer athletes a proper balance of both mental and physical challenges.
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