Cross Training – Method or Madness

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Every time I hear the term cross training I just shake my head in wonder. What are you talking about? Doesn’t good training involve utilize a variety of methods to elicit adaptation? Lets look at cross training and see if there is any method or if it is just madness. Hawley & Burke (P. 31) define Cross Training as: “… is when an athlete undertakes training in a discipline other than their main sport for the sole purpose of enhancing performance in their primary event.” It has been primarily used as a method for retaining training adaptations. What we are really talking about here is transfer of training effect. It has been my experience that those who utilize cross training the most are those who already have a tendency to chronically overwork and are looking for another way to punish themselves. I feel that this is another training myth that has actually detracted from sound training. It certainly has very little foundation is sports science research. For a runner to get in the pool for anything more than a recovery session is time ill spent? The same is true for biking, that time would be better-spent strength training or working on flexibility, both areas that tend to be ignored. Most of the time they are ignored because the runner feels they do not have enough time to fit it in. Yet those same runners can find the time to swim for thirty minutes or bike for an hour. It is all a matter of priorities. Cross training may be OK for the recreational athlete seeking to relive the boredom of training, but for the high level athlete it is virtually useless. “Specific exercise elicits specific adaptations, creating specific training effects.” (McArdle, Katch & Katch P.394)

McArdle, William D. Katch, Frank I. & Katch, Victor L. Fourth Edition. Exercise Physiology- Energy, Nutrition, And Human Performance. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore. 1996

Hawley, John and Burke, Louise. Peak Performance- Training and Nutritional Strategies for Sport. Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW Australia. 1998
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Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta

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Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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