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Get Stronger and Leaner With Cross Training

Using the technique favored by pro athletes can get you better results and fewer injuries.
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How Cross Training Can Help continued...

Cross training is also making its way into the average person's fitness routine, with more and more "weekend workout warriors" discovering its benefits.

But exactly what can it do for you?

Professional athletic trainer Jim Thornton, MA, ATC, sums it up this way: "Cross training takes into consideration the fact that many muscles in different parts of the body contribute to a single activity. So to get the most out of any activity, and to do it safely, you must pay attention to all the muscles in your body that are involved, not just the ones directly related to that activity."

For example, while a runner needs to build strong leg muscles, he or she must also pay attention to the muscles that control pelvic movement, core strength -- even the upper body. "All these areas are utilized when you run," says Thornton, director of athletic training services at Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a member of the board of directors of the National Athletic Trainers Association.

But that's not all. Experts say cross training can also help us with the tasks of our daily lives.

"Implementing a variety of activity into your routines almost certainly guarantees that you will be much more functionally active … and that you can complete day-to-day tasks with much more ease," says Herrera.

Climbing stairs, working around the house or yard, or taking the dogs for a walk takes much less effort when you're "functionally fit," he says. It's also easier to avoid injuries related to those everyday activities.

"You're much less likely to injure yourself bending down to pick a child or heavy box off the floor," says Herrera.

What Cross Training Involves

For people devoted to a particular sport or fitness activity, there are specific activities that make up an ideal cross training routine.

For example, if running has been your only activity, your "prescription" for overall better fitness would include strengthening exercises for the pelvis and hips, as well as weight workouts to build the upper body, Thornton says.

If you've been doing only weight lifting regimens, you'd be well served by adding a cardio workout -- like running on the treadmill -- to your regimen, he says.

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