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When and when not to cross-train

By Roger Earle, Dr. Thomas Baechle

Cross-Training for the Muscle-Toning Program

To add cross-training workouts to your muscle-toning program, include an aerobic exercise “interval” after every weight training set. The aerobic interval should consist of stair climbing, stationary cycling, jogging in place, jumping rope, or any other type of aerobic exercise that you can perform near the weight training exercise stations. The length of each aerobic exercise interval can be 30 to 60 seconds.

After the last repetition of each weight training set, begin immediately performing whatever aerobic exercise you have filled in on your workout chart (it helps to have the machine set up so that it is ready for you to begin immediately after your set). To maximize the benefits of a cross-training program, do not delay the start of the aerobic interval. Then, when the 30- to 60-second aerobic interval ends (decide in advance how long it will be), take your exercise heart rate (see the section “Determining the Intensity of the Aerobic Component” to learn how to do this).

Cross-Training for the Body-Shaping Program

To add cross-training to your body-shaping program, add an aerobic workout on the days that you do not weight train; you will be exercising a total of four to six days per week. Although the body-shaping workouts will develop your muscles and shape your body, adding aerobic exercise to your overall program will more quickly bring about a sculpting effect to your body! Because aerobic exercise increases the number of calories that you burn, adding an aerobic workout to your overall program will reduce your body fat while the weight training builds up your muscles. The result of cross-training is a visually appealing physique. Many people choose to stair climb, stationary cycle, jog, run, walk, swim, or do an aerobic dance class two to three times per week on their days off from weight training. You should consider your weight training level when choosing the number of aerobic exercise sessions to complete each week. If you are a beginner following the level 1 or 2 workouts, add two days of aerobic exercise per week. If you are an intermediate exerciser and use the level 3 or 4 body-shaping workouts, you can do aerobic exercise three days per week. If you are more advanced and adhere to the level 5 or 6 workouts, you can also add three aerobic sessions per week. You will not need a special cross-training and weight training workout sheet, but you may want to record the time, distance, type of exercise, and exercise heart rate on a separate sheet or notebook to monitor your improvement.

Cross-Training for the Strength-Training Program

If you are serious about developing high levels of strength, you should not add aerobic exercise to a strength-training program. Because of the heavier loads required to improve muscular strength, you need to rest properly; this applies not only to the period between sets and exercises but to the nonweight training days as well. If you attempt to incorporate aerobic exercise into a strength-training program, you will find that you may not feel recovered or rested enough to complete the more intense weight training workouts; similarly, you may have to struggle through your aerobic workouts.

This is an excerpt from Fitness Weight Training 2E.

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