As an experienced lifter, you know the ins and outs of the weight room better than most. You have your lifting schedule down to a T and rarely deviate from the plan. Although you might change your workouts depending on the season or shifting goals, the pulling and pushing remain the same.
No matter how long you’ve been lifting weights—months, years or decades—you have to admit that it can get a little repetitive after a while. It goes back day, chest day, leg day, rest day and then the cycle repeats—how do you mix it up? If you feel like your fitness routine has become a little, well, routine, you’re noticing gaps in your overall fitness level such as endurance or lagging muscle groups or nagging injuries are keeping you out of the gym, cross-training
might be for you.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why you should consider cross-training other sports or activities, along with common ones that can benefit weightlifters to help with their flexibility, endurance, cardio and more.
Why You Should Add Cross-Training to Your Routine
Cross-training serves many purposes. For one, it keeps things interesting. Routines are called routines for a reason—they are consistent and “routine.” Getting results in the gym is, after all, about being consistent and sticking with it past all the ups and downs and plateaus. Despite what the infomercials might say, you can’t get shredded or strong by working out for a month and calling it good, but you know that already.
The thing is, however, that routines can get a little repetitive for even the most dedicated, and although weightlifting isn’t exactly an art form, if you’re feeling uninspired in the gym, it shows in the results. Cross-training offers the perfect way to keep things exciting and keep your body guessing. While not every day brings something new, at least a couple of days out of the week, you’ll be doing something other than lacing up the same black shoes for weightlifting. For those who have been lifting for years on end without much variation, cross-training is a breath of fresh air and puts your body under different kinds of stresses you might not have experienced before.
Cross-training also provides more flexibility in your fitness routine as well. If the gym is closed on a certain day, you can simply switch it up and schedule a yoga session or go for a run instead. While others married to their weightlifting routine might skip the workout altogether, you have options, which is key to staying consistent in your routine and weeding out any excuses your mind might try to concoct.
Finally, cross-training is important for your overall fitness. While weightlifting is great for your strength and muscle-building goals, your cardio, flexibility or endurance might be lacking. Cross-training serves to fill in those gaps with new exercises and movements that target different areas of the body to achieve different goals. It’s challenging at first, especially if you’ve never been close to the Ardha Chandrasana yoga pose, but once your body starts adapting, you might notice the added flexibility is helping your lifts.
With this in mind, these are a few sports and activities you should consider adding to your overall fitness routine to target new areas, achieve different goals and even help in your weightlifting efforts as well.
Taking a dip in the pool isn’t just for relaxing on a hot summer day. There’s a reason that pro swimmers are in such great shape—swimming takes a ton of energy. In fact, although it sounds relaxing, many will claim it’s among the most grueling cardio exercises. When you swim, you get a chance to work many more muscle groups than you might otherwise. Swimming is also much less intense on your joints when compared to running and other cardio activities. If you want to test your endurance and get a full-body workout, jump in the gym pool once a week or so.
Yoga is so much more than just holding static positions and repeating mantras. In fact, every weightlifter should at least try incorporating some sort of yoga practice into their routine. You don’t need to go full-on hot, intense yoga—at least not to start.
Lifting weights often requires us to keep our bodies rigid and tight to activate the right muscle groups. Over time, however, this can kill your flexibility, balance and posture. Yoga moves the needle in the other direction, allowing you to move, bend and breathe in new ways.
Don’t let anyone tell you differently—yoga is a workout and is crucial for continued high-performance. So, pick up a yoga mat and some flexible workout clothes for women or men and find a class or watch an instructional video and practice it on your active recovery days.
In the same vein as yoga, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) forces you to bend and move differently than you would in the weight room, although this flexibility can be tested by your partner or opponent. While not for everyone, after an hour of training, you’ll leave a puddle of sweat on the mat, so getting a good workout isn’t a problem.
Many compare the sport to swimming because you’re using many of the same muscle groups in an intense, full-body workout. BJJ is also very meditative and can work to burn off stress while burning calories. If you’re up for a new mental and physical challenge, BJJ is a good way to go.
Whether you choose to hop on a stationary bike or mountain bike through the foothills, cycling is a great way to break a sweat, burn some calories and work your leg muscles. Of the other cardio methods, cycling isn’t as hard on your feet and joints since your black shoes
aren’t physically pounding the pavement, but you can still get a really good sweaton to improve your overall cardio health.
The beauty of cycling is you can make it as intense or as light as you want too. Whether you want to burn out and set the resistance high or just want to coast for a 30-minute ride to get the blood flowing, the choice is yours. Don’t discount cycling, because it can also be a life-saver if you suffer an injury in the weight room.
Long Distance Running
If running 5-plus miles sounds brutal, it’s because it can be when first starting. Just like squatting heavy used to be your least favorite day of the week, running long distances is a habit you have to build and learn to enjoy. But after a few runs, you’ll be in the swing of things, learning more about your body’s real limits, not just the ones your mind has put on it.
Running has loads of cardio benefits and will teach you how to loosen up and move freely—something most weightlifters could benefit from. Also, despite what might seem like a season-bound activity just for spring and summer, with the right workout clothes for women and men, you can run all year long and stay warm too.
Whether you plan to step in the ring and square up with an opponent or just hit the heavy bag, boxing is a killer workout. In boxing, your endurance and cardio will be put to the test, and if you’re trying to lean down, a couple of sessions per week is the quick way to do it.
Boxing also works to improve your coordination as well as you train your hands and eyes to work in split-second unison. Most heavy bags also weigh at least 100 pounds, so you’re improving your overall strength with every hit too. Whether you sign up for a class or hang a heavy bag in your garage, boxing is a great way to break a sweat, burn off some steam and improve your cardio. Plus, you get to learn a new skill at the same time.
Is Cross-Training for You?
Every experienced lifter should consider implementing cross-training exercises into their routines. Even if it’s just 30 minutes of yoga on a recovery day, the benefits of moving in new, different ways can help you not only perform better in the weight room but also fill in any gaps in your overall fitness. Assess your current goals and any blind spots in your current regimen and find a sport or activity that fits.
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