Cross training is not just for athletes anymore. This form of fitness training has become a staple for group exercise instructors and their participants. Those who cross train can expect to “increase power, add flexibility, build stability and increase motivation” (Krause, 2009, p. 9). Doing the same activity every day leads to overtraining, imbalances and boredom, so it really is beneficial to mix up one’s mode of training, both for longevity and enjoyment.
An example of traditional cross training is when a runner adds cycling into his or her training schedule in order to focus on muscles that are underused. Running and biking complement each other well since they both work the cardiorespiratory system, and running stresses the calves and hamstrings while biking stresses the quadriceps. However, there is more to cross training than switching out one cardio activity for another. Tanaka and Swensen (1998) report that scientific data trickling in over the last 30 years on cycling have shown that resistance training of the lower body has the potential to enhance both the short-term anaerobic skills (attacks, sprints, and steep climbs) and the long-term endurance capabilities of a cyclist and should be included in a cross training schedule.
It is obvious that leg strength would increase anaerobic power on the bike, but consider what the abdominal and back muscles do for the cyclist, too. As stated by Dr. Paul Krause (2009), “We need strong and stable core muscles in order to transmit power through our kinetic chain” (p. 16). Those riders that have a strong core are able to maintain proper posture for extended periods of time, as well as execute both power and endurance positions at a higher capability than those with a weak core. They are fatigue resistant!
Let’s take this example into the Spinning® room. Certified instructors know that trying to train the core while on the bike leads to inefficient biomechanical positions, which are contraindicated movements in the Spinning program. Some instructors include some off-the-bike abdominal work at the end of the ride if there is space to do it, but most have had to recommend students go take a Pilates or abs class after Spinning class. Leg strength, on the other hand, can be stimulated to a degree with a Strength Energy Zone™ ride, but true hypertrophy occurs in the weight room via the leg press, quadriceps extension and hamstring curl machines, which are not convenient for us to use during a class. The best option for Spinning instructors is to focus on core strength, and an extremely efficient tool to use after a ride is the Bodyblade®.
The Bodyblade was originally designed for shoulder rehabilitation in 1991 by Bruce Hymanson, a physical therapist. Bodyblade is a low-level vibration and inertial training tool that trains the body and the deep dynamic stabilizing muscles involuntarily or automatically. Similar to Resist-A-Ball® exercises or a vibrating platform, the Bodyblade in particular promotes improved proprioception, muscular balance, and joint stability. Bodyblade creator Bruce Hymanson, PT, and numerous others have researched the benefits of using this product and found that, among other exciting results, physical rehabilitation clients noticed increases in flexibility, muscle endurance, strength, coordination and power. What is exciting about the Bodyblade is that as soon as one starts to drive the blades back and forth (known as oscillation), the core muscles begin to fire. It works a person from the inside out. It trains functional movement patterns as opposed to just isolated muscles/positions, and that corresponds to how the human body moves through space. The Bodyblade also adjusts itself to the user’s ability and size since the tips never move faster or slower than 4.5 times per second; a stronger person can drive harder and the tips will move in a larger arc, generating more force.
Data continues to build a case for using vibrational training and the Bodyblade is the perfect prescription since it is affordable and accessible for group fitness. Researchers studying vibrational training have compared it to traditional strength training. Silva, Couto and Szmuchrowski (2008) found that when vibration was applied during isometric contraction in the opposite direction, subjects significantly increased maximal isometric strength compared to those without the addition of vibration. To apply this research to real life, think of the sensation of holding a squat on a flat surface compared to holding a squat on an uneven surface such as a pillow. The pillow provides instability, which in turn provides vibration, and that calls on more muscle fibers to get involved in order to stabilize the joints and connective tissues. This leads to greater strength than if one just performed the squat isometrically, as in a wall sit, or isotonically on a flat surface.
The Bodyblade may be used in a variety of positions to recruit upper body as well as lower body muscle groups. In the Spinning room, the Bodyblade is an excellent addition for off the bike resistance training. There are numerous exercises that may be done standing without having to move the bikes out of the way. When more space is available, there are exercises that may be done from kneeling, seated, or plank positions, and even those utilizing a Resist-A-Ball stability ball. Redefine cross training as you add resistance work with Bodyblade into your fitness mix!
Hosanna R Silva, Bruno P Couto, and Lexzek A Szmuchrowski. (2008). Effects of mechanical vibration applied in the opposite direction of muscle shortening on maximal isometric strength. J Strength Cond Res 22, 1031-1036.
Krause, P. (2009) Benefits of cross training. AMAA Journal, Spring/Summer.
Tanaka, H., & Swensen, T. (1998). Impact of resistance training on endurance performance: A new form of cross-training? Sports Med, Mar 25 (3): 191-200.