Superior Fitness Principles Include Cross Training Exercise

24 06 2014

CrossTrain Muscles Using a Variety of exercise

I recall cross training during the 80’s as a popular strategy used off-season in-between sports to sustain fitness levels.  Today the same cross training fitness principles are used by a new generation of athletes and activity enthusiasts to sustain superior physical condition year round.

Cross training exercise is identified and made new again by a popular brand known as “CrossFit” training.  CrossFit, Inc. is a fitness company founded by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai in 2000.  Its training philosophy and programs make use of a wide variety of age old sports conditioning, physical activities and exercise to sustain high fitness and performance levels.

For instance, CrossFit exercise incorporates a mix of high-intensity interval training, girevoy sport (Russia Kettle ball lifting), plyometrics (jump training), strongman, powerlifting, calisthenics, gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting and other exercise.  A mix of these exercise activities are now offered within 9,000 affiliated gyms with this particular cross train brand.

If a gym offers cross training, or CrossFit programs and services, then there will be exercise areas that offers more than free weights, stationary weight lift and aerobics equipment, swimming pool, racquet ball courts and aerobic dance classes.  For example, in/outdoor boot camps and/or specialized and singular workout areas within fitness centers may also offer obstacle exercise stations specifically designed to move the body, e.g., climb, jump, roll, leap, etc.   Parkour courses originated within the military and are still used today to condition and cross train soldiers for the rigors of war.  To relate, think of the popular game show “survivor,” which uses a variety of Parkour course-like physical challenge stations to win immunity and awards.

Cross training programs have been introduced to the “Y” and millennial generation through numerous newly minted small 24/7 secure access workout centers that may or may not be affiliated with the CrossFit brand.  As a matter of fact the cross training principled fitness philosophy may fall under many types of fitness brands offering unique variations of exercise modalities that can accommodate any customized fitness program need.

Back in the 80’s we used cross training routines to maintain superior fitness levels through exercise activities that included martial artistry, gymnastics, climbing, running, jumping and leaping station challenges.

These unique training areas were created or accessed in a back yard, field, natural wooded area or garage.  We customized our cross training areas based on exercise activity ideals found in magazines, books and imagination.  These customized training areas weren’t traditionally offered within any commercial gym, or fitness facility of the time.  For instance, you couldn’t go into any facility and find a rock climbing wall, Parkour exercise area, free weights, aerobics, gymnastics equipment, or unique combination thereof to meet all fitness programming needs.  Today you can find a plethora of cross training programs and services built into one fitness facility.

The market supply and demand model of the 80’s basically offered free weights and circuit training equipment.  Some aerobics equipment and dance classed were also offered.  You may have also had access to a swimming pool, gym and racquet courts and indoor track in large facilities at in increased membership expense.

However, if you needed specific cross training equipment in preparation for the standard sports season, you were limited to the local offerings of the time.  For example, if you played football, your cross training program off-season would revolve around jog-sprint activities performed on urban roads if you didn’t have access to a school track.  Weight lifting facilities offered free weights to exercise chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs.  To include clean and jerk, bench and dead lift strength and power exercise stations, etc.  These exercise staples are still used today to cross train and condition a football player’s fitness levels year round.

Regardless of fitness programming, resources and training practices during off-season; to get an athlete to the next fitness level requires an interim cross training resources to achieve the competitive condition.

Professional athletes must exercise and scrimmage to its sport specific activity to work muscle memory [neurological mind-body connection] as close as possible within its natural environment to be competitive.  Although cross training exercises are used to keep the brain-body system(s) firing at a good rate of return, it is not “peak or optimum relative to competitive sport play if not performed with frequency, within its natural and conditional environment.”

Now let’s focus on a competitive rock climber looking to challenge themselves by preparing a vertical rock face climb for the first time.  How should he/or she cross train in preparation for the event?  An indoor rock climbing area, yoga class and weight lifting center with endurance and resistive workout stations are all good cross training resources to precondition the necessary strength, flexibility and endurance in preparation of the actual event.  But in no way is a substitute for the real thing.

Controlled facilities cannot provide the specific environment, weather conditions and test the mind-body in the same way as natures opposing gravitational forces.   To obtain a well-conditioned and relative muscle memory performance focus for this event, environmental field training is necessary.  Like a football training camp, a relative rock climbing base camp must be part of the training program.  If you climb vertical mountains year round you’re likely in a conditioned league of your own and using your natural environment as a relative Parcour training ground.

To maximize your rock climbing skillsets a preconditioning period of acclimation, strategy and exercise training at ground zero is necessary.  For instance, ground zero training areas is considered smart planning and strategy prior to negotiating a vertical climb similar to the NW face of half dome in Yosemite Park, CA.  Those that don’t program and plan accordingly are at greater risk of injury and/or death when cutting corners in this particular sport.

Regardless of physical activity or personal challenge, many athletes and adventure seekers cross train by using a mix of swimming, biking, jogging, running and resistive weight lifting exercise and other routines.

We didn’t have the variety of facilities and equipment during our generations competitive sport years.  But we all understood the benefits of cross training fitness principles.  If we needed to condition ourselves with a similar exercise we’d build it in our garage or back yard, or find an obstacle course in an outdoor rural environment.  At the time we didn’t know it, but we were the innovators and developers of modified Parkour courses and cross training within urban and rural areas.

Cross training centers may not offer a training program specific to your competitive needs.  However, if you’re serious about taking your fitness condition to the next level, you can find a skilled fitness trainer to help you customize a relative cross train program in support of your fitness goals.

For example, if your training to become the next American Ninja Warrior then your cross training program must focus on upper body and grip strength [hang time], powerful and explosive legs for jumping, vaulting, swinging and leaping; free running (high intensity run through obstacles) with the cardio muscular endurance and flexibility to endure such an event.  You must find a skilled trainer and/or facility to help customize an exercise program that includes relative quadrupedal (hand-leg) movement within a similar Parcour or similar exercise area and conditional environment.

The variations of balance, movement, hand-eye coordination, flexibility, power and cat-like reflex skillsets needed to compete in Parcour courses can be improved upon through the study of shaolin Kung-Fu philosophies rooted in the animal kingdom.  There is a lot to learn in movement and balance by watching how cats, dogs and monkeys play.  For instance, if a Ninja Parkour course requires a “cat-like” run-jump-grab-swing to reach a 10’ platform, then study a video of a cat’s movement as it jumps from ground to top of fence and then balances itself.  A Parcour training facility should include this exercise station, or assembly and training provided relative to animal movements.

I’ve watched professional sports players compete in physical challenges outside of their trained professions.  Because body types, passion, genetics and training techniques favor particular strengths, every one of us is wired to be competitive at various activities and at different levels.  The point is, if you’re looking to be physically good or competitive at something, or you simply want to stay in shape, determine your physical strengths, weaknesses and passion for a particular exercise activity.

Start out with a low-intensity cross training exercise program.  Then train to the environment 30-60 days before the actual activity or event to achieve a competitive advantage regardless of age group.  When you cross train relative to your fitness goal you activate more musculoskeletal movement and stimulate more neurological functionality of the brain and body then you would otherwise.  Thereby making you more competitive and healthy relative to your age.

Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, MSC Officer, ANG Ret.2014 Copyright.  All rights reserved, MirrorAthlete Publishing @:, Sign up for your free eNewsletter.

Change Exercise & Nutrient Strategies – Grow More Muscle, Part 2

20 07 2013
Task Specific Training for Muscle Growth Success

Task Specific Training for Muscle Growth Success

Click on Read Part 1, or cited article link, How to Grow Muscle Naturally, Part 1, below to get the full muscle growth and strength story.

Muscle growth is dependent upon protein synthesis [process in which cells build and repair themselves].  An adequate supply of essential amino acids is necessary to grow muscle and keep it in a good state of repair.  It is wise to ensure you consume a diet high in essential and nonessential amino acids for muscle during high intensity weight training cycles.  The mix of amino acid through proteins comes from a variety of whole foods: poultry/eggs, fish, beef, seafood, beans, nuts/seeds and dairy (Healthaliciousness 2013).

“The United States RDA is 0.8g/kg or 0.4g/lbs. This is 80g protein per day if you weigh 200lbs. But this recommendation is based on studies done on average, sedentary people.  The minimum if you train hard is 1g protein per pound of body-weight per day. That’s 200g daily protein if you weigh 200lbs. You’ll reach this amount easily by eating a whole protein source with each meal.”  (Mehdi 2009)

Professional body builders and athletes frequently consume three times that in food calories and supplements to grow muscle and increase strength.

Most Americans, unless you’re adverse to eating animal products get enough protein in the average diet. But this does not guarantee your getting all essential amino acids from the proteins you consume in a day.

Your body needs 20 total amino acids to build and repair muscles and tissues.  The nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.”  If you are stressed or severely sick, you need to get dietary non-essential amino acids as well.  Non-essential amino acids, made by the body include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, ornithine, proline, serine, tyrosine and glutamic acid.” Meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and seafood provide all nine essential amino acids and are known as complete proteins. (Coffman 2013)

If you do not eat seafood or animal-based foods, your diet is likely lacking in essential amino acids.  This is one reason power lifters supplement their diet with an amino acid or protein supplement drink or power bar.  By doing so ensures muscle tissue has adequate nutrients to optimize muscle growth and strength potential.

Their supplemental nutrients taken daily also often include a daily vitamin and mineral complex.  These are the staple nutrients necessary to ensure the bodies muscles can optimally repair and grow.

 Changing exercise strategy to grow more muscle,

Frequently switch up your exercises.  Don’t get stuck on the same routine week in and out.  Use a wide array of weight lifting equipment and target muscles you typically don’t train.  For instance, the bench press focuses on the mid-pectoral chest muscles, but it does not maximally stress the upper or lower pectoral muscles.  Be sure you’re adding an incline and decline chest exercise to round out the chest area (symmetrical).  After 72 hours when you work the chest again, use stationary bench press equipment, or dumbbells as opposed to the free weight bench press to perform similar chest exercises.

If you typically look the other way as you walk past a workout station… this should tell you, you have weak muscles that need work.  Many experienced bodybuilders never do the same workout twice.  How do you think natural body builders sustain their size for decades?  They work other supporting muscular structures that assist weakening muscle fiber.  In this way, if strength diminishes through the aging process; muscular bulk is maintained through other variations of less intense exercise activity.  It is possible to sustain muscle mass and not have great strength.  It’s really about how you train and set fitness goals.

Until the weakest muscles are worked, for example by varying the angles of the muscle group articulations it will be harder to optimize symmetrical muscle growth and overall strength-power.  Why’s that?  Because the muscular inter-tie and effort per muscle group is dependent on the weakest bundled muscle fibers that work in sync to achieve maximum muscle torque per grouping.

You’ve heard that team that work together win championships right.  The same is true of a body’s internal musculature groupings and forces.  The first place to visually observe an interlinking muscle grouping weakness can be seen in an outer appearing muscular symmetry beneath the skin.

So how do you view this to determine muscle group weaknesses?  Stand in front of a mirror and you’ll note the developing muscles vs. muscle depressions/or size differences from one arm or shoulder muscle, from the other side as an example.  The muscle groups required to compete cannot with an underdeveloped or depressed, undersized, or underdeveloped muscle grouping.

For example, if the bulk of your chest development resides within the mid chest and front shoulder areas, your upper and/or lower chest muscles will appear to be deflated or depressed.  If your goal is to win a national body building competition, or become a great fighter for example, how can you compete with the elite if muscle symmetry and/or full strength ROM (Range of Motion) per task specific body segments is underdeveloped?  Point and case, you’ll face competitive challenges.

When you pay attention to muscle development deficits, it makes it easier to take a corrective weight training (task specific) exercise action to keep the team of muscles within any muscle grouping symmetrically trained, especially if you plan to compete in competitive sports.

Can you train competitively without the steroids and growth hormones?

I don’t believe anabolic steroids should be allowed to create a performance advantage for competitive sports for ethical and health reasons.  But the fact is they are used by many professional athletes.  Note I said many, I didn’t say all.  I recommend you follow professional athletes that train muscle naturally if you want to steer clear of the unwanted health risks associated with anabolic supplements.

Does this mean that Growth Hormones and steroids have no medical use?  There is literature that makes good sense out of its use to benefit health and quality living experiences.  But it is only through a doctor’s care and treatment and when used correctly can provide a health benefit while minimizing health risk.

“Suzanne Somers states, Growth Hormone is one of the most studied compounds in medicine.  When growth hormone deficiency is present, growth hormone replacement therapy has widespread health benefits on quality of life, body composition, cognitive function, cardiovascular outcomes, bone density and exercise capacity.  Growth hormone replacement therapy has been studied with published results in major medical journals reporting on more than 100,000 patients.”   (Somers 2012)

It is the abusive and unnecessary overuse of steroids and growth hormones that skew the benefits vs. health risk.  In other words, science can find ways to keep us healthy longer, but ultimately it is man’s abuse, greed and vanity that seeks to deliver a performance shortcut and achieve a short-term competitive edge.  In using a pharmaceutical or supplemental product above and beyond its safe use throws blinds over impressionable eyes.  And in doing so delivers unwanted health consequences for too many of our young athletes.

If you want to gain strength and grow muscle safely, work for it by doing it naturally.  Working hard without the use of dangerous chemical short-cuts will reward your body by supporting a long-lived quality lifestyle.  If you suspect you need hormone therapy, ensure you consult with a doctor.  Or if your intent on using any type of steroid or growth hormone supplement, do yourself a favor, first read the article link below to learn more about them,  “GH-Hormone Stimulator the Fountain of Youth. ”

Works Cited,

Coffman, Melodie A. “Do You Need to Eat Essential Amino Acids Every Day?” Healthy Eating. Hearst Communications, Inc., n.d. Web. 17 June 2013. <;.

Healthaliciousness. “Top 10 Foods Highest in Protein.” Top 10 Foods Highest in Protein., 2013. Web. 17 June 2013. <;.

Mehdi. “Protein 101: How Much Do You Need & Best Sources of Protein | StrongLifts StrongLifts.” StrongLifts RSS., 25 May 2009. Web. 17 June 2013. <;.

Somers, Suzanne. “Human Growth Hormone Update.” Suzanne’s Blog., 5 June 2012. Web. 17 June 2013. <;.

Woodard, Marc T.  How to Grow Muscle Naturally, Part 1.  Mirror Athletes Fitness Secrets., 18 June. 2012. Web. 20 July 2013. 

Woodard, Marc T.   GH-Hormone Stimulator the Fountain of Youth.  Mirror Athlete Fitness Secrets. 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 June 2013. Elixir?


Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, CPT, MSC ARNG Retired.  2013 Copyright, All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @:,  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.