The Best Cross-Training Workouts for Your Favorite Exercises

You might already know that certain muscle groups should be worked out together to achieve greater gains. But what many people don’t realize is that cross-training with different exercises can have the same effect, leading to better balance and overall athletic performance.

complementary workouts muscle groups to work out together

By applying the same philosophy you use when choosing complementary colors for your kitchen redesign, you can essentially use the same concept for your workouts. Round out your weekly workouts and discover which cross training activities best complement your favorite forms of exercise below.

Crossfit + barre

CrossFit is a great full-body workout consisting of compound movements that recruit multiple muscle groups. It requires focus, intensity and speed. Classes are often fast-paced, while not sacrificing form of course.

Due to its high intensity, pairing CrossFit with something a bit slower, like barre is a perfect fit. Barre is all about breathing, lengthening and prioritizing tiny, isometric movements. Classes can help create strength for supporting muscles that assist in balance and stability. It can also help increase flexibility, all of which can only help to improve the performance of your CrossFit workouts and life outside the gym.

HIIT + walking

High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, pairs well with walking. Glen Wilde, CEO & Founder of Diet to Success, recommends a combination of HIIT and walking.

“HIIT is an effective regimen for burning calories and greatly enhancing your stamina. However, it’s also really intense and is a hard workout to stay consistent with on a day-to-day basis. Walking is also effective for burning calories. Plus, it’s easy to get into; you don’t dread it the way you do with an intense workout like HIIT.”

He continues, “With HIIT, you get an intense workout that builds lung power and overall conditioning, while walking ensures you stay physically active without physically and mentally burning yourself out.”

Want an example weekly workout schedule? Wilde suggests five days of exercise per week, with two HIIT sessions and three walking sessions. “If you’re a little more gung-ho, then make it three HIIT sessions and two walking sessions. Keep HIIT workouts no more than 20 minutes and walking sessions 30-60 minutes.”

Indoor cycling + pilates

Whether you hit the saddle at home on your Peloton or sign up for Soul Cycle each week, adding pilates to your weekly rides may help strengthen your cycling performance. A strong body makes a strong cyclist, and a strong body starts with the core. The deep structural strength found in the core that is so often focused on in both pilates and reformer classes, can actually help create better cyclists.

Running + yoga

Running is a full body workout, but emphasizes the lower body (obviously). Most runners who spend the week clocking countless miles don’t always take the time to stretch (guilty), which can lead to tight muscles, especially in the hips.

Enter yoga. Yoga can help open up the hips, as well as other muscles, which can ultimately help runners achieve a longer stride and log more miles.

Karina Krepp, a New York based personal trainer, provides a deep dive on how yoga can truly complement running.

“The long holds in yoga lunge, or virabhadrasana positions, awaken the sometimes sleepy glute group,” she explains. “Side plank stabilization, called vashistasana in yoga, activates both the internal and external oblique groups, vital cross lateral stabilizers as we land and push off in our run gait. In the relief and recovery landscape, pigeon pose and cow faces pose or gomukhasana are a runner’s best friend; unlocking tight hips and reducing the chance of injury.”

She goes on to say, “All health comes in balance, and moving only in one plane of action puts us at risk of overuse injury and boredom. Mix up your running with some time on the mat. Your body will thank you for finding your balance.”

Swimming + TRX

Swimming is great low-impact cardio activity that can help improve cardio health. Unfortunately, swimming does not help with bone density, which is why it’s important to add an exercise modality that can help build bone density.

A great option to add in for that specific benefit? TRX training. Strength training, like TRX training, not only helps strengthen muscles, but it also can help build and maintain optimal bone density.

Tennis + kettlebells

If your three favorite words are “Game, set, match,” then it’s time to start swinging some kettlebells in between your weekly tennis games. Done properly, kettlebell swings train you to develop force from the ground up, which generates power from the legs where it is then transmitted through the body’s core and arms. Whole body power, like that which can develop through kettlebell workouts, can also strengthen the muscles in the arms and your hand grip, which can help improve your tennis game.

Weightlifting + Tai Chi

Spend your days deadlifting? Then take a break from all of those dumbbells and sign up for a Tai Chi class. Tai Chi, also known as qi gong, is an Asian martial arts practice that is geared towards balance, breathwork and footing. Ever see senior citizens in a park moving like they are all in a slow motion martial arts movie? Yep! That’s Tai Chi.

Not only can Tai Chi help with balance, but it can also help you learn how to move weight around using different muscles. Kind of cool, right? If you are too nervous to sign up for a Tai Chi class, try checking out some videos online instead.

Yoga + bootcamp

Namaste and zenning out may be your workout of choice, but consider adding in a new element to your routine in the form of a bootcamp class. Boot camp builds strength, increases heart rate and torches calories. Since many yoga practices are completed at a slower pace and more controlled, mixing it up with a heart pounding boot camp class challenges muscles, which can stimulate muscle growth.

Creating a workout routine is wonderful, but remember to mix it up with a complementing workout every once in a while, which can actually improve your overall performance of your favorite go-to workout.

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.