Cross Training Program

Amelia Phillips

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If you’ve been stuck in an exercise rut, repeating the same old exercises, with barely any results, then maybe your body needs to be shocked by something new and different. Cross training is a workout that constantly changes, working all systems in the body from musculo-skeletal and cardiovascular. What’s the benefit? A body like Jose and Juanita over there, fit and strong with the explosive power of a leopard!

What is cross training?

You can read the dictionary definition of cross training, however, I like to call it the ultimate ‘Smash-em-up’ session! You know those days when you’ve got pent up stress, or you are feeling down, they are the best days to get into that gym (or lounge room) and go NUTS! Crank up the music, don’t worry what other people may think (security may be called) because when cross training you do whatever it takes to get your heart leaping out of your chest, and sometimes that means going crazy!!

Cross training is the combining of different exercises for different parts of the body that will improve strength, agility, fitness, and power. It usually involves big compound movements where multiple joints are working at once which elevates the heart rate giving the person a cardiovascular and strength workout at the same time. Explosive movements, such as jumping, build strength and fitness at the same time which is the ultimate aim.

Who should cross train?

Anyone who wants a body that is lean, muscular, well proportioned, but not overly pronounced. If you imagine on one end of the spectrum a marathon runner, and on the other a bodybuilder, a cross trainer’s body will fall right in the middle.

People requiring explosive movements for sport or work benefit greatly from cross training, and the general population who have limited time to exercise and need to kill two birds with one stone (ie lose weight and tone up).

Who should-not cross train?

  • Beginners
  • People looking for a lot of muscle bulk,
  • people with back/neck/knee issues,
  • pregnant women,
  • elderly,
  • if you are really inflexible be careful not to injure yourself by going beyond your range of motion

How to create your own cross training workout for your total body

Pick 6 strength training exercises, 2 x leg, 1 x back, 1 x chest, 1x shoulder and either a bicep or triceps exercise. Pick 3 plyometric exercises. Create three different circuits of three exercises as follows:

#1: 2 x leg + 1 plyometric: Repeated for 3 sets (no rest between sets)

60sec break

#2: Back, Chest + 1 plyometric: repeated for 3 sets (no rest between sets)

60sec break

#3: Shoulder and arm + 1 plyometric repeated for 3 sets (no rest between sets)

60sec break

#4 Cool-down: Abs and stretch.

Tips for the exercises you choose:

  • Must be compound, ie more than one joint is moving. For example bicep curls are isolated (only your elbow moves) so you’d have to add something in such as squats while you curl.
  • Body-weight exercises are best, such as push-ups, chin-ups, reverse pull-ups, dips, Swiss ball work.
  • Use a heart rate monitor and set a lower limit so it beeps if your heart drops below 65% maximum.
  • If your heart rate drops too low, jog on spot, skip or do whatever you can to lift it up, then continue.
  • Strength exercises may be performed a bit faster than a normal weights session to keep heart rate up.

Example workout

Click here for a larger, printable version of the workout below:

Signs of a good workout

  • The pool of sweat on the floor
  • Your heart rate stayed above 65% the whole time
  • You have shaky muscles which are sore the next day
  • You can’t decide if your lungs or limbs are more exhausted

Watch this You Tube Clip for some plyometric ideas (I think these guys are wannabe break dancers!)

Your 5 day weekly plan

Depending on your body type, structure your weekly workouts as follows:

  • For emphasis on weight loss;

Day 1: Run

Day2: Cross train

Day 3: Run

Day 4: Cross train

Day 5: Rest

Day 6: Yoga/Pilates/stretch

Day 7: Rest

  • For emphasis on Muscle growth

Day 1: Cross train

Day 2: Legs (weights)

Day 3: Cross Train

Day 4: Upper (weights)

Day 5: Rest

Day 6: Yoga/Pilates/stretch

Day 7: Rest

What to do next…

Print up the above program, make sure you understand all the exercises I have given you. If not, substitute your own exercises that you feel comfortable doing. Click on the Plyometrics link if you need more plyometric suggestions.

Dig up your heart rate monitor. If you don’t have one, just learn how to count your pulse over a 6 second period and add a zero (eg 15 beats in 6 seconds means a HR of 150bpm).

Get to the gym/park/garage/lounge room, clear the space you need, get the equipment you need before you warm up. Crank up your music and off you go! The above workout should take about 40-50mins.

Let me know how you go. Do you have any awesome cross training exercises to share with readers??? Remember, don’t make it complicated, and don’t stop moving!

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  • DR

    Great article on cross-training.

    Thanks for including the workout chart

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  • Amelia Burton

    Thanks DR,
    Glad you liked it! I hope the printout is splattered with sweat marks!

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    nice post.

    can you tell me the name of the person (male) in the above photo-at top of page. i ve read a book by him, about fitness but now i don’t have that book and i also forgot the name of book as well author’s name. so plz if you can tell me his name or any book by him, would be very regarding.


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    Hi SAN,

    I am afraid I bought that photo from istock photo website. There isn’t any information on there to say where the photo came from. I am sorry I couldn’t be of more help.


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