“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” -Bruce Lee
If you constantly perform the same exercises week after week, your body becomes adapted to the activity. You will develop strength specific to the exercise you are doing. However, repeated use of these same muscles and joints, can lead to over-developed muscles in some parts of the body, and weak under-developed muscles in other areas. This can lead to muscle imbalance, plateaus, and injury.
If you do repetitive activities over an extended period of time, you have an increased risk of developing an overuse injury. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional athlete, a runner, a bodybuilder, stay at home mom or even a retiree; you need to cross train. Cross-training is a great way to improve overall fitness and performance. Variety in your training helps prevent fitness plateaus, muscle imbalances and helps you stay motivated with your workouts.
Muscle confusion helps to prevent plateaus and adaptation; it can be achieved by simply changing your workouts on a consistent basis. A good time frame for changing your workout routine is every 4 to 6 weeks. For instance, if your current weight training workout is heavy weights, you could switch to increased reps and lighter weights the following month. If you are a runner, you could do long runs for 4 weeks and then switch to a month of shorter and faster interval runs. This creates muscle confusion and is great for increasing overall fitness and performance.
Cross-training is a great way to confuse the muscles and avoid injury. A well-balanced program should include all the major components of fitness: Weight training, cardiovascular work, and flexibility training. Furthermore, it is important to vary each workout component on a regular basis.
Men’s Fitness points out:
“By performing a variety of exercises from different disciplines, you are asking more of your body than with a traditional, straight-forward approach. Increased workload and variety lead to increased capability. In other words, by doing more with your body, your athletic and fitness levels have no choice but to grow. Cross-training workouts aren’t tailored to a single goal, such as gaining strength or getting faster, but cater to these needs simultaneously. With cross-training, it’s possible to gain muscle, lose fat, increase cardio-aerobic capacity and quicken your feet all in a single workout. This comprehensive style of fitness training is called conditioning, and it’s one of the benefits of cross-training.”
A well-balanced program works the entire body but it’s important to allow for recovery to ensure your muscles can rebuild and get stronger.
You can workout the entire body on non-consecutive days to allow for appropriate recovery. Here are two sample workouts including strength and cardio intervals:
And don’t forget to add stretching at the end of your workouts. Consider adding yoga to your routine 2-3 x per week.