Cross training refers to an exercise program that involves different activities other than the sport-specific related ones. While it is crucial for vertical gymnasts to train at the Pole, there are numerous benefits that can be achieved from cross training off the bar.
The principle of specificity of training states that adaptations to our bodies are strictly related to the activity undertaken. In other words, if you want to be a better runner, you run; if you want to be a better swimmer you swim; and of course, if you want to be a better vertical gymnast, then you POLE. However, cross training can improve overall athletic performance and ensure all that the body parts are functioning well and meant to last.
Successful Pole gymnasts should cross train because:
Without a doubt, proper technique and preparation (practice) are paramount to becoming a successful vertical gymnast, but we can only work within the limitations of our own physical fitness. By developing a sport related based workout for strength, power, flexibility and / or anaerobic capacity, we can help our bodies reach the finish line much sooner.
When looking at Vertical Gymnastics in particular, we notice that anaerobic energy pathways are highly targeted, with strength and power much more important than aerobic endurance.
Caution needs to be placed during strength training, since following the wrong resistance training program can actually be detrimental to performance. Bodybuilders train specific muscle groups whereas athletes must train movement and the whole body to work in unison.
While focusing on learning a new skill and technique, muscle conditioning is needed to ensure this is done properly. Breaking bad habits and relearning can be very difficult and time consuming.
When choosing the right exercises for cross training, movements should ideally mirror the sport’s movement. At the beginning stages, all pole athletes will benefit from building a general strength base; once closer to advanced or competitive levels, muscle conditioning should be closely related to Pole specifically. Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, general cross training will ensure agonist / antagonist muscle balance is achieved, assisting in performance and preventing injuries.
Frequency: beginners are usually recommended to start with muscle conditioning twice a week for cross training, plus Pole training twice a week to adequate rest is given for muscle recovery. More advanced gymnasts may benefit from training five, six or even seven days a week close to competition times, focusing more on Pole than muscle conditioning. Breaking down cross training into split routines may be a good option in these circumstances.
During off training days there are still many exercises that we can focus on, to improve our Pole skills: flexibility, choreography and floor work are the best options to work on during our “resting” days. Pole is a wonderful sport, hobby, art form, etc, that allows for many interpretations of what training is; whatever it may be to you, just remember to not allow “training obsession” to take over and to keep it FUN: this I find to be a key ingredient for success!
Thank you for reading, GVE Team