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Cross Training
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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The concept of cross-training is training that is outside ones chosen modality (Foster et al., 1995). Despite the principle of specificity, which states that the most benefit comes from training within your sport, an athlete may improve their performance in one athletic modality by training in another mode (Foster et al., 1995). Cross-training allows ‘cross over benefit’ related to general fitness (Foster et al., 1995)..

Who Participates in Cross Training

Physically active individuals ranging in skill level and age participate in cross-training whether they intend to or not.

Typically we see competitive athletes make the most use of cross training. Some reasons that athletes might cross train are:

  • athletes participating in training associated with injury (Foster et al., 1995)
  • load reduction during regenerative cycles (Foster et al., 1995)

Why Cross Train?

As mention before there are a few reasons to cross train as an athlete. An injury would prevent typical movement patters needed for any given sport; so atypical training needs to be found.

Examples of Cross Training

An example of using cross training is running. As a high impact endurance sport runners often experience muscular strains and stress injuries that impede their training (Foster et al., 1995). In a lot of cases reducing the impact on the injury can allow the athlete to continue training. Water running is a zero impact exercise that mimics the motions of running. This allows the athletes to gain an endurance stimulus, while still adhering to the principle of specificity and removing weight bearing impact. Ok

Competitive training for athletes consists of training cycles and regenerative cycles, where the athlete is loaded for a period of time and then allowed to recover from that load. Cross training can be used to reduce the load on the athletes during this phase. To use running as an example again, water running, biking, elliptical, and others can be used to train while in this recovery phase.

Do Children Cross Train?

Although it may not seem pertinent to children (as defined in (Trembley et al., 2011)), ages 5-11, the concept of cross-training directly relates to sport diversification, early specialization, and overuse injuries in children. The debate around sport diversification and early specialization in children will be discussed below as it relates to the prescribed activity doses.

Physical Activity in Children

Physical Activity Guidelines (Trembley et al., 2011)

Physical Activity Guidelines are created through research in order to educate individuals on the amount of physical activity they should be participating in to stay healthy.

Children should participate in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily. This should include:

  • vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days a week
  • activities that strengthen muscles and bone at least 3 days per week.

Sport Diversification

Sport Diversification refers to the participation in various physical activities rather than focusing on a single sport (specialization). Sport Diversification is said to allow the acquisition of multiple skills, both physical and cognitive (Moesch et al., 2011). Furthermore, transferable patters, lack of burnout, exposure to diverse environments, positive health benefits, and improved psychological development are all benefits associated with sport diversification (Cote & Fraser-Thomas, 2006 & Holden, 2011).

Even though more and more individuals are specializing as early as childhood the majority of todays children are exposed to many sport stimuli (Cote & Fraser-Thomas, 2006). Since cross-training can only occur once a primary discipline has been chosen, the concept of sport diversification should be considered an acceptable equivalent.

Early Specialization

Contrastingly to sport diversification, early specialization refers to specializing in one sport earlier than is considered conventional (Cote & Fraser-Thomas, 2006).

Cross Training in Children

Pulling from the concept of sport diversification and the physical activity guidelines connections can be made between the concept of cross training and its use in the active lives of children.

Valovich et al. (2011) found that there has been a significant decrease in overall daily physical activity such as walking to school or playing with friends. These physical activities have been replaced by more sedentary ones such as watching TV or playing video games reducing the overall fitness level of children starting sports (Launay, 2011). It was found that organized sport allows children to meet their prescribed 3 days per week of vigorous physical activity but that a sedentary lifestyle makes up the majority of the rest of their week (Launay, 2011). To counteract this lifestyle trend in children the New Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (Trembley et al., 2011) have added recommendations for sedentary behaviors.

Keep in mind that at this age, cross training would be considered any physical activity outside of organized sport as it would elicit various stimuli to the children.

Why Cross Train

This trend of alternating vigorous and sedentary days in children is becoming more prominent. Sport puts repetitive, uniform, and intense stress on the child’s body, and due to the aforementioned trend in physical activity levels an increase in stress injuries is being noticed in children (Launay, 2011).

Overuse Injuries in Children

Overuse injuries at this young an age can have detriment effects on the child’s development, especially since the majority of overuse injuries occur along the epiphyseal line (growth plate) of joints (Launay, 2011).

Common Types of Overuse Injuries in Children (Launay, 2011)

  • Osgood-Schlatter disease
  • Sever’s disease
  • Stress fractures


  1. Cote, J., Fraser-Thomas, J. (2006). Youth sports: implementing findings and moving forward with Research. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sports Psychology, 8(3). Retrieved from 8Iss3/YouthSports.htm
  2. Foster, C., Hector, L., Welsh, R., Schrager, M., Green, M., & Snyder, A. (1995). Effects of specific versus cross-training on running performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 70(4), 367-372
  3. Holden, D. (2011). Elite performance via diversification. Pathways to the Podium. Retrieved from
  4. Launay, F. (2014). Sports-related overuse injuries in children. Orthopaedics & Traumatology: Surgery & Research, 101(1), S139-S147
  5. Moesch, K., Elbe, A., Hauge, M., & Wikman, J. (2011). Late specialization: The key to success in centimeters, grams, or seconds (cgs) sports. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 21(6), E282-E290
  6. Tremblay, M., Warburton, D., Janssen, I., Paterson, D., Latimer, A., Rhodes, R., Kho, M., Hicks, A., LeBlanc, A., Zehr, L., Murumets, K., & Duggan, M. (2011). New Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 36(1), 36-46.
  7. Valovich McLeod T.C., Decoster L.C., Loud K.J., Micheli L.J., Parker J.T., Sandrey M.A., et al (2011). National athletic trainer's association position statement: prevention of pediatric overuse injuries. Journal of Athletic Training 46: 206-220