Let's Talk About Cross Training
What is cross training? Is it the same as conditioning? (spoilers, no.) Do I need to do it? (spoilers, maybe)
Cross training basically just means training in another sport/exercise that is not one's main sport. This can be for fun, it can be for the specific purpose of enhancing an aspect of performance to benefit the main sport, and/or it can be for balancing common movement patterns.
Cross training specifically for improving in one's main sport can
include a mix of weightlifting,
mobility/stretching work, and/or calisthenics depending on one's goals for their season or training block.
For example let's take a semi-professional aerialist who has no performances for 6-8 weeks. They may enjoy playing in a frisbee league once a week for fun. They may also lift weights a couple times a week specifically with the goal of increasing their overall strength, especially their lower body and upper body pushing muscles to balance the upper body pulling demands of aerial arts. They can include longer stretching/mobility sessions in their training as they are working on getting their active splits flat.
A professional ballet dancer may cross train with Pilates two or three times a week to help strengthen specifically for ballet, and also do a 45 min aerobics class one or two times a week to help with her cardio.
Wait, Then What is Conditioning?
Conditioning is when we practice common movement patterns of our sport, often with or on the equipment needed for our sport. The goal of conditioning is to increasing our endurance, technique, and movement efficiency. Conditioning can help our bodies get used to the apparatus, especially in the case of aerialists and gymnasts.
Conditioning for an aerialist can include things like chin ups, rope climbs, leg lifts, straddle inverts, etc., which are all movements, or mimic movements, that would be used in the air. For a gymnast this can include things like squats, rope climbs, push ups, and deadlifts which all mimic movements needed for gymnastics skills. Things like squats and deadlifts don't only have to be considered as cross training, and in this case fit nicely into conditioning for a gymnast as the squatting and hinging patterns are used a ton in gymnastics.
So if I Cross Train do I Need to Condition?
Doing one or the other depends on your needs and goals. We do not need to intensely focus on both all the time.
Follow this link to download your free Periodization Template for the Artistic Athlete, a printable resource to help you plan your training to prioritize recovery and optimize performance!
For example, if you are in a training block where we are focusing on gaining strength, one to three days a week of cross training with strength focused weightlifting is can be very beneficial.
Whereas, if we are in a phase of preparing for a show run or recitals, cutting down weight lifting to once a week with a goal of maintaining rather than increasing/gaining, and putting more emphasis on conditioning to increase endurance would be the better choice, making sure there is a tapering of volume as we get closer to the premiere.
For a gymnast in an off season, spending more time on strength training can allow for an increase in strength when the competitive season starts, resulting in better skills and increased resiliency for the demands of the season.
For any athlete in any sport, appropriately programmed and supervised strength training is consistently shown to decrease risk of injury and improve aspects of performance. When in doubt, keep it simple! Doing some sort of cross training will likely be more beneficial than doing nothing. Having some conditioning in your training is important to build sport-specific strength and resiliency.
If you're not sure where to start, contact me here for a consult and we can get you set up to reach your goals!