Cross-training is the use of different exercises and activities to work different parts of the body, and the benefits are pretty impressive. While repetition has its place – muscle memory, improved response time and the development of specific skills – cross-training means more well-rounded fitness and performance. And get this. You can cross-train incredibly effectively for a myriad of other sports and activities by practicing martial arts.
When you cross train, you benefit from the strengths of another sport, minimize limitations set by your own sport, and develop different skill sets that can prove valuable in your own sport. Those who practice martial arts, no matter what kind, develop a range of physical and mental skills and habits that almost always lead to better performance in other sports and even in personal and professional relationships.
It’s a situation that’s often recognized by youth coaches. Kids with a background in martial arts or dance have a foundational training that leads to better performance than kids without the same background.
So if you want to be a better basketball player, a sport that requires running, jumping, defense and ball skills, martial arts can help by increasing leg and core strength, stamina, balance and focus. Martial arts will also improve hand-eye coordination and precision, necessary skills for effective ball handling.
What about downhill skiing? You need lower body and core strength, endurance and balance, and you’ll develop them all with martial arts.
You can even improve your golf game by practicing martial arts. Golf is almost all mental, demanding focus, precision and concentration. To aim well, you need rhythm, balance and a strong core. These are all skills that are developed and honed in martial arts.
If you play soccer, you need to be highly conditioned and capable of quick bursts of speed and power. Martial arts teaches practitioners how to develop and maintain a kind of low-energy “ready” state, how to coordinate different parts of the body and effective hand-eye coordination. These are skills that are invaluable on the pitch.
From a physical standpoint, martial arts will improve flexibility and increase strength. It also teaches breath control, and that’s a skill that improves performance overall and reduces recovery time. Learning how and when to breathe is an asset, no matter what you’re doing.
One of the biggest benefits of martial arts as a cross-training platform is the mental edge it gives practitioners. Success after failure teaches us fortitude, perseverance and improves self-confidence. Respect and discipline teaches us to be humble. Clearing the mind teaches us the value of focus and being present.
For children or adults, the benefits of martial arts extend far beyond the mat. It isn’t just the cross-training value that martial arts offer – but that’s a pretty cool benefit.