Cross Training: What sports are good for what?

Cross Training:Whats sports

To continue from my previous blog on Cross Training. Here is a brief guide to different sports and what each one brings to the table in terms of training:


Swimming can be very useful in terms of cross training as it’s non-weight baring and uses a larger variety of muscle groups than many other sports. Due to the lack of weight baring swimming is often the first sport to be implemented back into a training plan when you’re recovering from an injury.

While many sports will target and improve you cardiovascular fitness research has shown that swimmers often have the upper hand. Swimmers have on average three times larger lung capacity than the average person causing an increase in efficiency to distribute oxygen round the body vital for any sport. The philosophy behind this is due to being submerged in water as well as being encourage to change your breathing style on a regular basis by switching which side you breathe from.

Swimming also has more variety with regards to technique than other sports like running with there being several different strokes to practice. You can use the different strokes to your advantage by selecting them to further focus on a particular muscle group see the list below:

Freestyle: Quadriceps + calf muscles and ankle mobility through the kicking motion produced at your ankle.
Backstroke: Hamstrings + again calf muscles and ankle mobility through the kicking motion produced at your ankle.
Breaststroke: Adductors and Abductors from the ‘frog legs’ style kick.
Butterfly: Pectorals, latissimus dorsi, biceps, triceps due to the arm movement involved butterfly requires the most upper body strength out of all the strokes and is a great option if this an area you want to develop. The dolphin kick will also work your gluts and hamstrings.


There has been a lot of research into cycling in terms of cross training and is particularly good if you want to strengthen your quad, hamstrings and gluts muscles. Stronger quads and hamstring will enable the forces to be distributed more evenly in the foot plant phase of your gait and can reduce risk of injuries to the plantar fascia as well as common knee complaints. Strengthening your glutes particularly medius and minimus can make your hip mechanics more stabile and can reduce injuries and overuse strains to the ITB that is often a contributing factor to many different sports.

Research by the University of Utah proved that high intensity short hill climbs on a bikes was more efficient in developing your leg muscles than uphill running or walking. Furthermore it has the added advantage of limiting the forces putting your body that you would encounter through running. As a result the times the participants took to complete a 10km run improved from having 2 cycling sessions a week.


Rowing similar to swimming is a great full body workout and it can be enjoyed outside as well as indoors. Rowing is very good for posture and to strengthen your back and core muscles, which will be essential for all sports as well as daily activities. Rowing adapts the same motions as doing a leg press but on a highly repetitive scale.


Running similar to the other sports in this list will help to work on your cardiovascular fitness and to improve your lung capcity. Running can be done inside and outside and is a cheap way of keeping fit as it requires no gym membership or equipment at all. It’s good to strengthen your lower extremity especially your knees and your core muscles. Your legs are your power house and anyone looking to develop their hamstrings,quads and calves will benefit from running. Running up hill will focus more on your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps more. Running on different terrains, inclines and routes will all work your core muscles to keep you balanced. For more details on what muscles and when in the gait cycle they are used read my blog post on the biomechanics of running and if you going to use a treadmill then check out my post on the science behind treadmill running.

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