CROSS-TRAINING: A MISNOMER
Hawley, J. A., & Burke, L. M. (1998). Peak performance: Training and nutritional strategies for sport. Sydney, Australia: Allen and Unwin.
Cross-training is when an athlete undertakes training in a discipline other than their main sport for the sole purpose of enhancing performance in their main sport. Both scientific evidence and anecdotal reports overwhelmingly indicate that the best way to retain a training effect and improve subsequent performance is to continue using the primary activity mode of competition. There may be some beneficial transfer between activities that have very similar forms of neuromuscular recruitment.
Cross-training is somewhat of a misnomer for a serious single-sport/event athlete and is best left to those multi-event sports that require competitors to be proficient in more than one discipline (e.g., triathlon).
Perhaps the only advantage of cross-training is when an athlete is forced to cease training in the primary activity (e.g., through injury) and there is a need to maintain a general fitness base. In such a circumstance specific fitness adaptation would be lost. The closer the range of motion of the substitute training to the primary activity, the better will be the retention of training adaptation.
However, if the intent of training is simply to maintain physiological fitness then a mix of exercises that stimulate adaptation in the desired physiological capacities would be beneficial. Physiological fitness would improve but there is no guarantee that performance would improve unless the original fitness level was particularly poor.
Implication. Cross-training is not an avenue for improving specific performances once maximal general fitness has been achieved.
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