6 Super-Effective Cross-Training Moves
While running is our favourite form of exercise, it’s important to mix things up a little, and there may be times when you just aren’t able to fit in a run. Cross-training not only helps enhance your running-specific performance, but it also strengthens muscles you don’t normally use, which is important for preventing injury.
“We tend to want to specialise,” says Menachem Brodie, cycling coach at Human Vortex Training. “But cross-training works your body, muscles, and connective tissues in a way that’s different.”
Cross-training is especially important the older you get, says Brodie. That’s because as you age, the range of motion in your joints start to decrease, and you start to slowly lose muscle mass after the age of 30. Total-body workouts and resistance training can help combat this.
That said, not everyone wants to cross-train at a high intensity (think: CrossFit) or high impact (think: plyometrics), so we asked Brodie to recommend a few low-impact exercises that will benefit us pedal pushers with our cross-training. His advice?
“Find something that works for you, be aware of your body, start out small, and be okay taking a break if you feel like you’re starting to struggle,” he says. “And take the time to learn proper technique so you don’t hurt yourself.” Here are his recommendations for six low-impact exercises you can use in your cross-training.
How to use this list: The cross-training exercises below are demonstrated by Matthew Johnson Harris, certified trainer and instructor at Flywheel in New York City so you can master the proper form. Perform 10 to 12 reps of each with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between each move for 1 set. Complete 2 to 3 sets twice a week. You will need a medium to heavy kettlebell and an exercise mat.
1. Kettlebell Swing
How: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out, and knees slightly bent. Hold a kettlebell using a two-handed, overhand grip on the horns (or handles), arms extended straight down in front of you. Keeping a neutral back, send hips back until the kettlebell is between and behind your legs. Squeeze glutes to thrust hips forward and swing the weight up to chest level. Allow the weight to swing back between your legs, sending hips back and allowing knees to bend slightly. Repeat.
Why: Using kettlebells in a cross-training workout is a great way to switch things up. “It makes strength-training accessible and teaches you to regulate tension in the muscles that you’re working and relax the ones you aren’t – no matter what weight you’re using.”
Kettlebell swings teach you to use your glutes properly, which are used when you’re sprinting and climbing, Brodie says. Strong glutes can also help prevent back pain and increase mobility in your hips.
2. Goblet Squat
How: Hold a kettlebell in front of your chest upside down so the weight is on top. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out. Send hips back to squat down until thighs are at least parallel to floor while keeping chest lifted. Stand back up to start and repeat.
Why: Goblet squats are a total-body movement that help strengthen your glutes, quads, abs, arms, and even your grip strength. These are also good for your cardiovascular system, says Brodie, which is important when it comes to being able to endure long runs and power up hills.
3. Around the World
How: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, a micro-bend in knees, holding a kettlebell by the horns with left hand like you’re holding a briefcase. Swing the bell around behind your back and grab with right hand. Swing it around front to grab again with left hand. Reverse direction to repeat.
Why: Here, you’re using your shoulders and arms to move the kettlebell around your body. This is mainly a shoulder stability exercise, says Brodie, which helps maintain good posture. This exercise also works well as a warmup for an upper body strength workout.
4. Weighted Hip Thrust
How: Lie face up on the mat with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and rest a kettlebell on your hips. Press through heels to lift hips straight up so body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Lower to return to start and repeat. Brodie stresses the importance of keeping your chin tucked down while doing these to protect your back.
Why: If we don’t regularly work these muscles, they get tight really easily from sitting all day at work, which is where weighted hip thrusts come into play.
5. Suitcase Carry
How: Stand tall while holding a kettlebell in right hand. (For an extra challenge, you can hold two kettlebells in both hands.) Walk across the room. Then turn around and walk back to return to start. Repeat.
Why: Incorporating a suitcase carry (or also known as a Farmer’s Walk) into your cross-training routine is important for climbing, sprinting, and long runs, according to Brodie. That’s because you’re using all of your core muscles, since any and every motion starts with a strong and stable core.
If you’re someone who prefers being outdoors more, hiking is a great activity that gives you a total-body workout. Plus, it helps boost your endurance, Brodie says, which is essential for those long, hilly runs.