Cross-training is a collection of exercise types which provide athletes with a complete workout. Many athletes excessively train one group of muscles in a particular way, while other muscle groups are unused. Cross-training provides better all round conditioning and muscle strength which may translate to improved performance and lessened chance of injury.
If you’re a runner, hockey player, golfer, tennis player, you can overtrain certain muscle groups. Over many years, this can create an imbalance of strength and reduced range of motion in the joints where those muscles meet. Injury, poor circulation and lowered performance are the result.
By varying the sports and types of training you do, you improve your all round athletic skills and improve the strength and stability of muscles and joints. The different muscle groups you use in one type of training (e.g., swimming) versus another (e.g., jogging) unfortunately provide are exclusive, meaning participation in one won’t benefit the other. However, cardiovascular benefits do cross from one type of training to another. So your swimming, running and cycling training will pay off in better fitness levels that will help you perform better in any sport or light physical activity. Using heart rate monitors and blood pressure monitors during and after cross-training exercises, you can identify areas of your body and conditioning that need to be improved.
In varying your training, you’re giving a muscle/tendon joint complex time to rest and yet still improve your fitness levels. Going for a walk or run after some upper body weight training is one example of mutually beneficial cross-training. Fatigued cyclists who sit in one position for long periods of time would benefit from playing tennis or basketball where they can use a more complete range of motion for arms, legs, trunk, neck and arms.