When you find a training method that works for you, deviating from it seems to make no sense. For instance, if powerlifting is getting you the muscle gains you've always wanted, why would you take time out of your training schedule to try something else alongside it? Seems counterproductive, right? In reality, cross training, or training across multiple disciplines, can actually help reduce the risk of injury, add variety to your training routine and improve all round athletic performance. Training specialist John-Francis Kennedy has all you need to know about why cross training is so great.
The reason why Michael Jordan was the greatest
We can all agree that Michael Jordan is one of the best basketball players ever. But did you know that he was also an exceptional baseball player in his teens? He even took a break from his basketball career to play in a professional baseball league, which totally goes against his image as a basketball hero.
What does it mean when arguably the best basketball player of all time decides to invest his time and energy into an entirely different sport, then steps back onto the court after a year without missing a beat? From a young age Michael Jordan cross trained. Early on, he started to train in both basketball, baseball and even football. Perhaps this is one reason why he became so great.
One of the most important aspects of both athletic development and overall health is staying injury-free. Specializing in one sport early exposes you to overuse and repetitive injuries. All sports come with their unique risk of injury, whether that be rolling your ankle on the basketball court or tearing your shoulder while pitching a baseball.
This concept holds true in the fitness world: training in one style might increase your risk of injury. Take powerlifters for example. They mainly train 3 exercises - the squat, bench press and deadlift. Common injuries? Herniated discs, hip pain and chest tears. However, this is not exclusive to heavy weight training; runners suffer from similar overuse injuries, such as runner’s knee.
We obviously reach a point in exercise, where training one way is not only no longer beneficial to our physical health, but can also actively contribute to injuries. If our goal is to just get fit and look better, then we should look past training one thing only. This is where cross training comes in.
“The best training plan” doesn’t exist
Cross training is a training approach that does not follow one specific plan, rather, it balances the positive attributes of weight training, powerlifting, bodyweight calisthenics and endurance. It unifies all their benefits, whilst keeping all of their drawbacks to a minimum. Cross training combines barbell compound exercises with bodyweight movements and even runs and sprints.
Every training approach has its pro’s and con’s. Powerlifting is great for gaining strength, but may compromise lower back health. Freeletics Bodyweight is awesome for everyday function and body control, but may not be the best training for maximum strength and hypertrophy. A single best training plan doesn’t exist. Everything depends on your individual goals and body structure. That’s why cross training is so beneficial.
To recap: why should you cross train?
Cross Training is a great tool to keep training healthy and sustainable and therefore offers two unique benefits:
- It prevents sport- and training-specific overuse injuries.
- It builds muscle, strength, stability, speed, mobility, coordination, endurance and aids fat loss.