As a coach, I often hear youth athletes ask, “How can I become more athletic?” One of the most beneficial ways that youth athletes can become more athletic is through cross training. Cross training is a method of training that involves combining different exercises and activities to improve overall fitness and athletic performance. Surely, athletes will improve by lifting weights and by playing the sport that they love. However, venturing into new sports, exercises, and activities without a singular focus is a great way to help a youth athlete develop their overall athleticism.
Benefits of Cross Training
· Reduce the risk of injury: One of the benefits of cross training is exposing your body to a variety of movements. This allows you to develop muscles that you may not typically use in your primary sport or regular strength training routine. As you train these different movements on a regular basis, your body can build resilience and reduce your risk of injury while participating in sport.
· Enhance athletic performance: Different sports and activities will require different athletic qualities in order to be successful. Some sports may be more explosive in nature, while others may require more endurance. Some sports may require more strength while others may demand a higher level of mobility or flexibility. By working on different areas of fitness and training a variety of athletic qualities, you can improve your overall athletic performance.
· Develop new skills: By incorporating new activities into your training routine, you can develop new skills that may be helpful in your primary sport. Let’s take a basketball player for example. A basketball player may focus primarily on dribbling, shooting and passing. If this player incorporates cross training into their training with a sport like martial arts, they could develop new skills like footwork, balance, and reaction time that could directly benefit them in basketball.
What could you be missing out on by not cross training?
· If you’re not incorporating cross training into your routine, you could be missing out on a number of important benefits. For example, if you are primarily focused on a sport that requires you to be explosive, such as baseball or sprinting, then you may be neglecting your cardiovascular health or flexibility. Alternatively, if your primary sport is focused on endurance training such as cross country running, you may be neglecting your strength or agility.
· If you’re not cross training, you may be more susceptible to injury. By participating in only your primary sport, overuse injuries become more likely. This is especially true in sports where multiple games are played in a single weekend, which has become popular in youth athletics.
How to incorporate cross training into your routine
· Try new sports: Be open and try out a variety of sports. Sometimes you don’t know whether you like something or not until you give it a try. If you’re a basketball player, you could try playing soccer, volleyball, or tennis to improve your overall skills and athleticism.
· Try new exercises and activities: If you primarily run for exercise, you could try incorporating strength training, yoga, or swimming into your routine. If you are primarily a weightlifter, you could try incorporating cardio, speed, or flexibility training.
In conclusion, cross training is an important part of a youth athlete’s development. It provides you opportunities to improve overall athleticism by acquiring new skills and utilizing movements that may be undertrained in your primary sport. It also gives you a variety of options to stay in shape, make new friends, and decreases your likelihood of getting injured.