Too many guys get stuck on a single technique or school of thought and dig themselves into a rut that’s hard to escape. We all experience plateaus, and to surpass them they need to be approached constructively. To grow, we need to reinvent ourselves and the things we do.
In the gym, this involves stepping outside of your comfort zone and seeking fresh, dynamic programs. Cross-training epitomizes this approach, drawing from a variety of disciplines and incorporating them into vigorous and supremely productive workouts. Cross-training is the method of combining several different workout strategies (for instance, body building, track and field, and boxing) for a single, comprehensive training session. Remember the ripped guys from the movie 300 a few years ago? They relied exclusively on cross-training to achieve their collectively jacked look. And there's always CrossFit, which—love it or hate it—has helped reshape the way we talk about fitness these days.
Cross-training approaches are also becoming more and more popular in the military, NFL and NBA. So what’s all the hype about? Check out some of the benefits of cross-training below:
By performing a variety of exercises from different disciplines, you are asking more of your body than with a traditional, straightforward approach. Increased workload and variety lead to increased capability. In other words, by doing more with your body, your athletic and fitness levels have no choice but to grow.
Cross-training workouts aren’t tailored to a single goal, such as gaining strength or getting faster, but cater to these needs simultaneously. With cross-training, it’s possible to gain muscle, lose fat, increase cardio-aerobic capacity and quicken your feet—all in a single workout. This comprehensive style of fitness training is called conditioning, and it’s one of the benefits of cross-training.
Often when guys get injured in the gym, on the court, or on the field, it’s because they’re over doing a single activity. Whether it be running, squatting, cutting, or jumping, your body is easily worn down. Joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons throughout your body are under a tremendous amount of stress though repeated movement, and it’s important to give them the occasional break.
By mixing up your routine you give the over-used parts of your body a chance to rest and the under-used a chance to strengthen and catch-up. By cross-training you can become a healthier, more complete athlete.
Active recovery is the practice of using an alternative type of training to recover from your primary training method. For instance, many professional football players do swimming workouts and pool resistance exercises to actively recover from their on-field practices and traditional weight room training. In addition to the conditioning and injury preventing benefits of active recovery, it has been show to actually speed up recovery by increasing blood flow and the delivery of nutrients to stressed or damaged muscle tissue.
Try this sample cross-training workout to kick-start your new routine or break through a fitness or athletic plateau (cycle through the listed exercises in order 3 times and try to complete the workout with as little rest as possible):
- 10 pushups
- 25 jumping jacks
- 8 pullups
- 30 seconds jump rope
- 10 squats with 70% of your body weight
- 60 seconds plank hold (prone-bridge)
- 20 box jumps on 25-inch platform
- 100 meter sprint (or 15 seconds of fast paced running)