What is the Best Way for You to Cross-Train?
Every performer has different goals when it comes to cross-training. Apart from increasing your overall fitness level, you may want to gain or lose muscle mass, increase strength and flexibility, or use exercise in combination with nutrition to manage your weight. The key ingredient in each case is to choose a cross-training regimen that suits your unique body type. Here’s how you do it.
Aerobic Exercise. All of us are born with a mix of fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers. The faster fibers are 30% to 40% bigger than their slower counterparts, contributing to an explosive jump and muscular build. In contrast, a greater proportion of slow-twitch fibers generally creates a leaner physique and more aerobic capacity. While it isn’t possible to change the distribution of these fibers, you can change your look and get fit with the right routine. For example, if your goal is to slim down, forgo high-impact activities like jogging in favor of the elliptical machine or swimming where your feet never touch the ground. You’ll avoid adding muscle mass, while increasing endurance, burning calories, revving up your metabolism, and lowering your genetic set-point for weight. Take the opposite approach if you want to bulk up. You also can become more muscular by adding twenty minutes of sprinting, where you alternate thirty seconds of a maximum workout with ninety seconds of rest. This releases large amounts of human growth hormone that builds muscle. Just ease into it!
Weight Training. The other aspect of a cross-training program includes lifting weights, using various machines for added resistance, and fitness programs like yoga. An effective program always combines strengthening exercises (that shorten the muscle) with equal amounts of stretching. For those searching for a leaner look, consider doing Pilates, Gyrotonic, or hatha yoga that focuses on slow-twitch muscle fibers, while allowing the faster ones to atrophy. Muscle gain, on the other hand, requires that you fatigue as many muscle fibers as possible by increasing the amount of weight lifted with each additional set of ten (e.g., moving from fifty up to seventy pounds). Both approaches help with weight management, since a pound of muscle uses nine times the calories of a pound of fat.
Remember: Never start any cross-training program without checking with your doctor. To locate a qualified instructor, visit the Resource Section.