This old-school workout method has stood the test of time because it works. And now studios across the country are making this results-driven style more fun than ever.
Photo: Rumble Boxing
Goat yoga. Aquacycling. It can feel like there are more fitness trends than there are days in the week to try them. But there is one fitness trend that is rooted in old-school exercise fundamentals. And, luckily, more and more studios across the country and going back to basics to put a new spin on this tried-and-true workout style.
It's cross training. Yep, it's that simple. It's something you've heard before, and hopefully something you're already doing. But now with boutique gyms such as Barry's Bootcamp and Rumble Boxing reimagining what cross training can look like, this traditional style of training is getting a jolt of new energy. This is one trend you're going to want to turn into a habit.
Why Cross Training Works
Cardio and strength training are the power couple of the fitness world. They're each great on their own, but together they make magic—strong, lean, toned muscles and a killer fitness level.
Hopping on that Spin bike for 45 minutes straight will certainly increase your endurance, but building on that workout with strength training from bodyweight moves or weightlifting will increase your overall calorie burn while also upping your power as an athlete. Likewise, lifting heavy without boosting your heart rate and challenging your cardiovascular fitness will limit your results in both muscle tone and overall heart health.
The solution is easy: Mix them together for a full-body workout that torches fat and builds muscle during your workout and after.
When you shift between different exercises and equipment, there's usually very little downtime, which makes your workout as effective as possible, says Rebecca Gahan, C.P.T., founder and owner of Kick@55 Fitness in Chicago. (Just another reason to change up your workout routine and try something new.) "When you stay in one spot on a Spin bike for 45 minutes, over time your body begins to adapt to its environment and is no longer shocked," she says. This is why Gahan developed the "Bike and Burn Boot Camp" class, which alternates between cycling and floor exercises every 15 minutes for a total of four times per session.
Combining cardio and strength movements dramatically increases your caloric output and maximizes your workout. "The constant state of surprising the body and challenging the muscles in new ways accelerates weight loss and fat burn," plus it helps you stay injury-free through everyday life activities, says Gahan.
While boutique fitness classes are finding new ways to reinvent this workout method to fit into one sweaty, time-efficient experience, the concept is not new. Gahan says cross training is a tried-and-true way to bust through a fitness or weight-loss plateau because your body is constantly adapting to take on new challenges.
What's more, by building muscle, you're increasing your bone density, which can lower your risk of osteoporosis later in life, says Astrid Swan, celebrity trainer and instructor at Barry's Bootcamp in West Hollywood, California. Barry's, an OG when it comes to cross training, has studios in cities across the country, with classes focusing on integrating treadmill intervals with strength training on the floor. Running and walking, as well as weight training, both offer these bone-boosting benefits, says Swan.
A relatively new studio on the scene that's changing the game for cross training is Rumble Boxing in NYC, and don't make the mistake of thinking this is only an upper-body workout. A typical class includes a rotation of bag work and strength training with moves like shoulder presses and squat jumps. (Related: This Rumble trainer shows you how you can do HIIT exercises even if you have bad knees.)
"You use everything from the arches in your feet to the muscles in your neck when boxing," says Rumble trainer Kory Flores. "It's incorporating a wide variety of methods into training to ensure that each muscle is primed for optimal impact and reaction time." Boxing offers up a workout for your brain, too, as Flores says each class challenges you with new combinations or jabs and punches to remember in sequence.
The bonus to taking a class instead of cross training on your own is that the exercises will be expertly designed to make you a better athlete. For example, Flores says "a Russian twist is a dynamic core and oblique exercise we often use in class, as it helps strengthen and quicken trunk rotation for hooks and uppercuts." Genius!
While the formats differ depending on the class and equipment, the concept is essentially the same: Cardio intervals and strength training circuits for a total-body workout.
How to Incorporate Cross Training Into Your Workouts
Indoor Cycling + AMRAP
Gahan says that her "Bike and Burn" class focuses a lot on AMRAPs, or "as many reps or rounds as possible." This kind of workout is meant to tax your muscles to the max for a short amount of time, so you're forced to go hard. "When you challenge your body with a specific number of reps in a finite period of time, you can set your metabolism on fire and give it your all," she says.
Try it yourself. Jump off your Spin bike (any stationary bike will do), set the timer for 4 minutes, and complete as many rounds as possible of the following: 10 side-to-side burpees (see: lateral jump burpee), 20 plank skiers (start in high plank position, then jump both feet together up toward outside of right hand; jump back and repeat on left side), and 30 tuck jumps. "The focus is on speed, agility, and pushing your body to the max cardio limit," says Gahan.
After those tough minutes, you'll hop back on the bike for some active cardio recovery. Cycling will give your muscles and joints some relief while still keeping your heart rate elevated so your body stays in work mode.
Treadmill Intervals + Dumbbells
Next, try some treadmill work. Swan says she loves to incorporate intervals into her classes. Wind sprints, a personal favorite, require you to go as fast as you can to get "winded," she says. "Doing wind sprints, such as 30 seconds on with 30 seconds of rest, will burn fat for fuel," she says. "You can catch your breath but don't pause too long."
For the strength component, try a renegade row with a push-up. In high plank position with dumbells in both hands, row right dumbbell up with elbow pointed to ceiling and weight near side body. Lower back down, complete a push-up (can modify on knees), then row on left side. Another option: A curtsy lunge with overhead triceps extension at the top between sides.
Boxing Bag + Strength Training Booster
Using quick jabs can really get your heart rate up for that blast of cardio, says Flores. She says that Rumble classes often use this type of punch in drills and sprints as a fast, straight-armed shot. "It's a good way to challenge your form in a fast-paced move," she says.
To take that intensity up even further, combine cardio and strength training in one move. Flores suggests using a 1- to 3-pound weight in each hand as you throw punches, just like you'd do when you're up against a bag. This puts cross training together in one combo move—you build strength with the weight's added resistance, which in turn increases power output (in this case how hard and fast you can punch) so you can show that bag who's boss.