Cross-training for sport-specific athletes

Among youth sports, a hot topic is whether or not athletes should play multiple sports throughout the year. Playing multiple sports will improve strength, coordination, and conditioning. This is a way for athletes to avoid overtraining and create muscular balance. 

Cross-training can be described as using a variety of exercises outside of the sport or traditional training methods to create a training effect. At different times of the year, cross-training will be utilized to give the athlete a break from their sport-specific training program. A break in the season, a transition from one block to another, or even a low-impact training session are some examples of when cross-training can take place.

women's basketballThere are many benefits of utilizing cross-training during the year. This article will touch on three benefits that athletes will receive from implementing cross-training into their training regimen.

  • Prevent overuse injury
  • Active Recovery
  • Mental Refresher and motivation

When implementing any training program, you need to consider the training age and experience of your athletes. Someone with more training experience will be able to do more workouts throughout the week. 

Workout volume tends to be relatively low during the in-season period. When starting the program, keep the volume low in the beginning and increase every week. Another factor to keep watch over during the workout is the amount of rest between sets and exercises. The fitness level and training age will dictate the amount of rest during the workouts. 

Prevent Overuse Injury 

Most athletes are focused on excelling at their chosen sport. Cross-training gives your body a reprieve from doing the same type of training over and over. During long periods of training, like in-season, you develop strength and flexibility imbalances that need to be addressed. Early off-season is a great time to address issues or areas that were missed.

Many forms of cross-training will challenge and develop different muscle groups that were used during the sports season. This is beneficial because it increases the recovery from the training that was performed. 

Active Recovery 

The beginning stage of the off-season is a great time to incorporate cross-training into a team’s program. Coming from the rigors of the in-season period there may be injuries or just general fatigue from a long season. Instead of taking a complete rest after the season, it is best to incorporate cross-training movements to keep your body moving and active.

The benefits to this are keeping muscles active, working on areas that were missed during the season, and helping maintain movement routine. 

Mental Refresher and Motivation 

Break from routines can provide a change of pace and a mental refresher for athletes to prevent burnout. Following a long season, the mind needs a break from consistent routines. Providing a new routine will keep athletes mentally engaged and may break up the monotony they may experience. Early off-season cross-training will help them feel refreshed and ready for their regular training regimen. The new training may also present new challenges that will keep athletes motivated through the long off-season. 

Implements used for cross-training: 

  • Bodyweight 
  • Variety of cardio machines 
  • Swimming 
  • Movement routines 
  • Dumbbell Exercises 
  • Barbell Exercises 
  • Resistance Bands 
  • Kettlebells
  • Sleds
  • Medicine Balls 

Cross-training is a way to use different modes of exercise outside of sport to improve different components of strength and conditioning. 

There are major benefits to incorporating cross-training into your regiment from improving conditioning, training different muscle groups, allowing recovery from sport, and keeping you mentally refreshed. Look where you are in your training cycle, establish goals, and plan your workout to accomplish them.

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Examples of Cross-Training Workout 

Movement Routine — Perform 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps. Do all the exercises, and take a 1-2 minute break, and repeat. Add additional reps to increase the intensity of the workout.

  • Bodyweight Squat 
  • Updog+ downdog
  • Single Leg RDL 
  • Kick Through 
  • Walking Lunge 
  • Bear crawl 
  • Deadbug 
  • Hip Lift

KB or DB Circuit — Perform 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps. One person completes all the exercises. Their partner will complete the same reps and exercises, while the first person rests. As you advance, add additional sets and/or reps to increase the difficulty of the program.

  • Right Arm Press 
  • Right Rear Lunge 
  • Right Bent over Row 
  • Right Single Leg RDL 
  • Left Arm Press 
  • Left Rear Lunge 
  • Left Bent over Row
  • Left Single Leg RDL

Interval Bike Workout — 10x 60 sec on 60 sec off 

  • Warm up for 5 minutes on the bike 
  • Pedal for 60 seconds, keeping the intensity the same for the whole time 
  • Rest for 60 seconds 
  • Repeat the same intensity for 60 more seconds until you have completed 10 sets 
  • Perform a 5 minute cooldown
  • Increases the intensity of the work as you become more proficient