Why Avoiding Cross-Training Might Be Causing Your Injury

Updated: Nov 29, 2018

In my profession, I speak to a lot of athletes on a daily basis. Many come to Performance Strength Lab to help them reach goals in their adult sports, others come to us who have had a past injury they don’t want to have repeat itself as they start training again. There are also athletes that come to us injured so we can help them improve their strength and they can be competitive again. I was speaking to a female runner a few days ago who suffered a bout of over training last year, she was not a client at the time, following the more runs I do each week the better, she also did not include any strength training. I discussed with her my coaching philosophy for athletes and that is to train so you can continue to enjoy your sport and be active throughout your whole life. I am an endurance athlete myself and I know for a fact that our life is an ultra-marathon it is not a sprint and we must be patient with our training and ourselves.

It is unfortunate, but all athletes who train specifically for a sport and do not cross-train are at risk of overuse injuries at some point. Injuries caused by overuse can occur in any repetitive activity (e.g., running, cycling, swimming, throwing, swinging). However, most overuse injuries result from a weakness or imbalance. A well-designed, properly supervised strength and conditioning program can prevent injuries by reducing muscle weaknesses and imbalances, and improving sport-specific movement patterns.

Sports Health analyzed 238 research studies in 2009 revealing that running injuries are a result of weak hips and the lack of stabilizing forces resulting from that weakness. According to Brian Hickey Ph.D., exercise scientist at Florida A&M and top masters runner and duathlete, one of the problems that can ensnare a longtime runner is not fully using all the muscles in your core and hips. “Ultimately you want the hip to act like a second foot, “Hickey says. “you want to engage and recruit those larger muscles. If I run with my hips I will be engaging and using the hips, the hamstrings, the quads. When I engage those larger muscles, the lower legs are then just along for the ride”

To do this most effectively, Hickey recommends lifting heavy weights to wake up dormant muscle fibers. "We typically only use about 50 percent of human muscle in our day-to-day lives. But let's say a car flips over and traps a loved one. The way you're going to lift the car off him is with a surge of adrenaline, recruiting all of your muscles and lifting core-to-extremity. You're going to light up a ton of motor units. The light switches are going to go on."

By lifting heavy weights as a part of your training program, Hickey says, you turn on those light switches in the deeper muscles and the core, enabling a flow of power from your core to your extremities, which improves stabilizing forces down the kinetic chain.

We use the example of running here but this is true with all sports! A proper Strength and Conditioning program for athletes have you perform workouts designed for sports performance rather than just fitness. You train movements using your entire muscular system. When an athlete incorporates Strength and Conditioning into their training plan, they will experience an elevated experience in their sport. Some benefits include:

Better Sports Performance

Outside of simply building muscle and improving coordination, strength training has a large carryover in an athletes sport of choice. Developing more power and enhancing related motor skills help athletes perform with a competitive edge. An example, numerous studies have looked at the effects of soccer training versus a combination of strength and conditioning along with soccer training. In all studies, only the players in the latter group improved their vertical jump. There were no improvements in the soccer-only training group.

Improvements in Self-Esteem and Confidence

Improvements in self-esteem and confidence are important and often overlooked. Gaining a mental edge is often the difference between performing your best and turning in a subpar performance. By mastering exercise techniques, setting personal bests and achieving goals, athletes can build confidence through strength training.

Better Health

Keeping active enhances the athlete’s immediate health and can establish good behavior that lasts a lifetime. Finally, strength training can help lower cholesterol and has a favorable effect on blood lipid profiles, making it ideal for fat loss and weight maintenance in overweight individuals

If you're lost on how to do strength training at home or in the gym, can't afford a personal trainer, or just need a little more motivation to do it, try signing up for a gym that specializes in Strength and Conditioning. At Performance Strength Lab we focus on power, performance, and prevention (P3). This system not only improves your strength and endurance, but it will also focus your training on healing your injury and preventing future ones. Check out more about our P3 Academy here and sign up for a free Success Session to learn about your personalized training today!

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