Experts tout cross-training as important to prevent injuries, improve the condition of the body and allow the body to perform at a higher overall level.
At its most basic, cross-training is simply alternating forms of physical activity to use different muscles in different ways. It can also alleviate boredom with workout routines.
Many people enjoy a particular activity or sport so they pursue it regularly. Perhaps they want to devote their energies to becoming the best in their field.
However, if we do the same motion over and over again, we can cause overuse strains.
“Running the bases can lead to imbalances in the musculature of ankles, knees and hips because you’re only turning left,” says Dan Siegel, co-owner of Peak Performance Personal Training. “To counter that problem, baseball players should stretch properly, lift weights in the off-season and cross-train by playing other field sports or court sports.”
Ron Lehnerz, certified personal trainer at Arizona Country Club, stresses cross-training to his clients so they can perform at their highest possible levels.
“A natural athlete will only develop to a certain point unless they hone other skills through cross-training,” Lehnerz said.
Scott Abbey of Arizona Sports Medicine Supply Company asks, “How can Michael Jordan square up for a shot when his feet are 3 feet up in the air? Well, he’s stabilizing from his core not just his feet.”
How did he get that way? Jordan has always pursued multiple sports. Steve Nash owes much of his agility on the basketball court to his pursuit of soccer. LeBron James was an All-State receiver in high school football as a sophomore before he became the record-breaking NBA star we know today.
Alternating running or jogging with a weight-lifting regimen benefits the overall condition of the body, trainers agree. Quadricep and hamstring muscle development are crucial for running sports, but the calf and ankle must also be strengthened for proper balance, turning and propulsion, hey said.
Our bodies have an amazing built- in system that enables us to move with coordination and balance. This system, if not stimulated, can wither.
Abbey refers to it as “use it or lose it.” That’s why he recommends people walk not just on treadmills or in a mall, but be sure to walk on uneven surfaces like hiking trails so the body practices its inborn agility.
Every sport requires unique skills. In hockey, the second-leading area likely to be injured after knees is the shoulders. Hockey players benefit from a specific cross-training regimen, like lacrosse, to develop their relatively weak calf, hamstring and upper-shoulder muscles.
Similarly, swinging bats and golf clubs must be done in both directions to unwind the body and to develop rotational strength in both directions.
Abbey said, “It’s all about life”. If people play different sports, he said, they’ll perform better in the long run and enjoy sports for their whole life while being less injury prone.