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Understanding and Implementing Cross Training Workouts

Understanding and Implementing Cross Training Workouts

Reading Time: 4 minutes 53 seconds


DATE: 2019-06-07

Do you have clients who are getting bored with workouts or struggle to stick with sessions?

Do you have any serious amateur athlete clients trying to improve their performance or worried about injuries?

Are you hitting your own performance plateaus and looking for ways to improve?

Both you and your training clients could benefit from cross training. Find out what this means, why you need to do it, and how to get started.

What is Cross Training and Why is it Important?

Cross training is a simple concept. It just means exercising in a variety of ways, like including cycling, the elliptical, and strength training in one week, instead of doing just one of these day after day.

For athletes, cross training can be used to achieve better performance. The goal might be improved overall performance, in say running, or something sport-specific, like greater agility for a soccer player.

So why is it important to integrate cross training workouts into your overall routine? There are many reasons, and they apply to athletes, weekend warriors and amateur enthusiasts, as well as people who just want to get fit.

Improved Overall Fitness

Perhaps the most important reason to use cross training in your fitness plan, and to encourage it in your clients, is that it leads to better overall fitness. Hitting the elliptical five days a week will have benefits, but they will be limited to the specific set of muscles used in that exercise.

But if your client instead does the elliptical one day, cycles the next, jogs one day, hits the weight room a couple days a week, and does yoga on the weekends, they will target more muscles and improve different areas of performance, fitness, strength, and flexibility.

Lower Risk of Injuries

Playing one sport or doing one type of exercise, day after day, is repetitive. Using the same muscles and putting the same kind of impact on the same joints in every workout will inevitably lead to an injury. By varying stress on different parts of the body, you lower the risk of getting hurt.

Improved Adherence

Working out can be boring for some people. If you have difficulty keeping clients interested in sessions, cross training can help. Variety is the spice of life, so they say, and that is true for exercise as in other areas of life. People will stick with workouts more consistently if they are not bored, and the key to keeping boredom at bay is to change things up.

Better Performance

If you want to be a better swimmer, the best thing you can do is to practice swimming a lot. However, cross training can add in some benefits that will improve your fitness and add to your performance. For example, doing yoga regularly can help you learn to control your breathing and improve flexibility, both of which should make you a more efficient swimmer.

To learn more about combining strength and cardio workouts, check out this post on the ISSA blog.

How to Choose Cross Training Workouts

For most of your clients, cross training is as simple as making sure they get a variety of workouts in each week. Also consider changing up the routine every month. For the most benefits, choose several workouts that hit a different area of fitness, like strength, cardio, and flexibility.

For you, or for your athlete clients, choose cross training workouts based on how they enhance specific areas of fitness and performance, like speed or endurance.

Mix up Fitness Components for Variety

To give your clients a varied workout schedule, consider the different components of fitness and choose types of training that will hit all of them:

  • Cardiovascular fitness. Running, jogging, cycling, elliptical and stair climber machines, swimming.

  • Strength and muscle endurance. Lifting, powerlifting, cross fit, Pilates, bodyweight exercises.

  • Flexibility. Yoga and stretching.

While you want to hit different aspects of fitness to give your clients the best workouts, choices should also be based on interest. If your client likes to run, make that a primary activity and supplement it with cross training workouts.

Select Cross Training Workouts Based on Athletic Goals

For your own athletic goals or those of a more performance-minded client, you'll need to be a little more thoughtful. Outline the main goals and then determine what area of fitness could use improving to hit that goal.

For example, if you have a client who wants to improve their powerlifting and move up to heavier weights, supplement lifting sessions with plyometric workouts. Plyo is all about fast movements that build power, which benefits lifting.

Cross Training Workouts to Try

The choice of cross training workouts depends on several factors, including client interest and performance goals. Here are some ideas that will introduce variety and help with specific goals.

Bodyweight Strength Training

For your clients who love to lift and are aiming for hypertrophy and strength, it can be tough to integrate cardio. Try a fast-paced circuit of bodyweight exercises, including things like jumping lunges, squats, and pushups. This will still hit strength but will also get the heart pumping for a good cardio workout.


High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great workout to add in for your bored client. Instead of plugging away on the treadmill for 30 minutes, try a 15-minute interval session. Regular HIIT workouts can be fun and will also improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance in other activities like cycling and running.


Getting your clients involved in actual sports is another way to keep up interest in fitness. Recommend tennis classes, play a game of racquetball together, or get them onto the soccer field for drills. Playing sports can be fun while also helping to improve agility, reaction time, power, and speed, as well as overall fitness.

Yoga or Pilates

What these two workouts have in common is a slower pace and the use of bodyweight. Add them in for clients who are always pushing heavy weights or who prefer high-intensity and fast workouts. Both workouts improve muscle strength, but yoga is especially good for improved flexibility.

Power Lifting

For every client you have that loves to lift and despises cardio, you will have another who is afraid to try weights. Add in power lifting for variation, to improve muscle strength, and for muscle endurance. This is also a great cross training workout for any amateur athletes in sports like swimming and running and for those who could use a confidence boost or are trying to lose weight.

Cross training is an essential part of fitness for every level and goal. From your clients who want to lose weight or get fitter to those with specific performance and athletic goals, varying workouts will provide great benefits. Be thoughtful about how you choose and incorporate cross training, keeping each individual's goals, interests, and motivation in mind.

Interested in working with athletes, both amateur and professional? Check out the ISSA's Strength and Coordination certification course.

Cross Training Client Handout

Click HERE to download this handout and share with your clients!

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