Have you noticed that you seem to be slower and flubbier than you were 10 years ago? No judgment; I’m just saying that, statistically, most of us in developed countries have a less ideal body composition than we did a decade ago. The good news is that adding cross-training exercises into your workouts can not only help you see actual, visible results (get leaner!) but also help you become more supple and spry (get faster!).
Here is my best cross-training workout – appropriate for all genders and fitness levels, including those over 50.
This workout can be done anywhere, indoors or outdoors, and you can even do it barefoot (lower within this article, I share tips on how and when to workout barefoot, and why sometimes it’s a wise idea).
Better Results with Cross-Training: Engage Multiple Muscle Groups and Get Fit Faster
Cross-training is an exercise style that trains your body differently than what it’s accustomed to.
Appropriately done, cross-training will help develop your upper body and give you a firm core – while also giving you healthier legs and making you a better runner.
The trick to cross-training is to engage in a broad spectrum of exercises that elevate your heart rate – including resistance training and aerobic movements.
A video is included lower within this article that demonstrates how to do each exercise.
Take Your Workouts to the Next Level: A Guide to Cross-Training for a Healthy Body and Mind
The following cross-training exercises will engage multiple muscle groups in each drill – using your own bodyweight for resistance and strengthening your physique to perform better movements.
Cross-training is functional fitness, meaning that the movement patterns are based on ways the human body is meant to move in the real world in various scenarios, such as the primal ability to change directions quickly.
Instructions for Cross-Training Exercises
You have a choice of how you do these particular drills.
- Beginners can do their training in the traditional strength-training way – 3 sets of each exercise with a 2-minute rest in between.
- Intermediate and advanced-level athletes can instead do a circuit training variation, in which you do 3 or 4 exercises back-to-back with no rest period and then take a 3-minute break before repeating. (Each circuit is repeated 3 times before moving on to an entirely new circuit.)
If fat loss is a priority, it’s a good idea to use the timer on your phone to ensure your rest periods don’t run too long. This will keep your heart rate from plummeting and help you remain in a fat-burning zone.
It’s human nature to think your rest periods are shorter than they actually end up being, so a timer can prove very helpful.
This cross-training workout can be done indoors or outdoors.
If you prefer, you can modify these exercises to perform them in an indoor environment.
You don’t need the equipment I use in the video. Hurdles, cones, and a speed ladder are fun, but they’re entirely optional, and the exercises can be done easily without them.
The idea is to feel fantastic after your workout. So, if you’re exercising outdoors:
- Wear sunscreen (including in your ears and on your scalp).
- You might need sunglasses, too (especially if you have light-colored eyes).
- Check the weather report before you go – to see if it will be windy.
- If it’s summer, you might want to avoid going between 11:00 am and 3:30 pm – especially if you’re working out at the beach as I do in the video – the sand can get quite hot.
- Bring water with you.
Cross-Training Exercises for a Full-Body Transformation
These cross-training exercises are for both women and men and can be modified to accommodate any fitness level.
I encourage you to use common sense. If you feel a sharp pain in your joints, stop. If you feel profoundly dizzy, stop. Consult your medical doctor before trying this workout – or making significant changes to your exercise habits.
- Side-to-Side Jump with Oppositional Toe-Touch
- Barefoot Sand Mountain Climber
- Toddler Jump
TIPS: you’ll notice that when I’m supporting the weight of my body on my hands, sometimes I use flat palms, and other times, fists. This is a personal preference. Do whichever feels comfortable.
The trick to keeping your wrists healthy is to never dump all your body weight into your hands. Instead, you use the power of your core and glute muscles to help lift the weight up toward the sky and off of your wrists.
Second Cross-Training Exercises Circuit:
- Frog Jump
- Barefoot Sand Side Hurdle
- Knees-Up Run
TIPS: when jumping, resist the temptation to dump all of your body weight into your knees and feet. Instead, imagine being light on your feet and directing your body’s energy upward away from your knees.
The more you engage your abdominals and glutes, the less weight your knees and lower back will have to absorb.
Third Cross-Training Exercises Circuit:
- Barefoot Sand Hopscotch (2 forward, 1 back)
- Bunny Hop
TIPS: You can do all sorts of circuit-training drills and sprints at the beach while barefoot in the sand.
It’s fun to invent your own exercises, and you’ll be surprised what you can think of – all you need is a little patience, creativity, and initiative.
- Barefoot Banded Side Shuffle
- Sand Sprint
- Zig-Zag Beach Cone Drill
TIP: if you have a workout buddy who can hold onto some sort of looped light-resistance band (around your lower waist) while you side-shuffle, it makes the drill more challenging. However, it can be done without a band, too.
Key Principles of Cross-Training
Be mindful of your alignment when doing sprints or drills:
- Keep your head up.
- Shoulders relaxed down and back.
- Chest floating forward and up.
- Pelvis centered (this happens when your lower abdominals and glutes stay slightly activated).
- The ball of your foot should land before your heel.
Drills are a type of fitness conditioning that uses repeated practices, each focusing on a particular skill – such as footwork agility, changing directions, or sprinting.
A drill teaches you how to distribute your body weight and engage your muscles in specific situations.
The significant benefit of cross-training exercises is that they tend to burn more calories than most other exercises.
They also teach you to work anaerobically for short bursts and – as a bonus – they improve your performance in other sports.
Benefits and Considerations of Barefoot Interval Training Moves
Being barefoot can help you become healthier – and a barefoot workout has unique advantages. If you want, you can try doing the exercises in this cross-training workout barefoot.
In particular, doing speed drills without shoes (such as on beach sand, on a lawn, or even on your living room carpet) can help strengthen your core muscles, legs, and feet.
Most people know somebody who has broken their ankle simply by stepping off a small curb. This is exactly the kind of injury that barefoot workouts are designed to help prevent.
By gradually improving the mobility and strength of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in your feet, you are helping to better prepare yourself for typical movements that occur in your everyday life.
One of the best ways to strengthen your feet is to do strength training exercises without shoes – as long as you decrease your risk of injury using common sense.
The human foot has hundreds of muscles, ligaments, and tendons – and 26 bones.
These primate muscles are there for a reason.
Nature intended them to be supple and strong – to help us run, jump, climb, and balance.
Shoes are overrated.
It can be beneficial to sometimes move around outdoors without shoes:
- Our feet are designed to ground us and provide us with a base of postural support.
- Being barefoot in the sand gives us direct physical contact with a vast supply of electrons on the Earth’s surface.
- Direct access to these electrons helps create a helpful internal bioelectrical environment for the healthy functioning of our body’s systems – including immunity and anti-inflammatory responses.
If You Want to Try Barefoot Workout, Follow These Instructions
Shoes help protect the feet from glass and extreme weather – and create cushioning from modern asphalt.
However, shoes can also weaken and cramp the feet, which, in turn, impacts the health of the rest of the body.
Keep in mind that if you’re not in the habit of being barefoot, it’s wise to proceed with caution.
You may not think that your athletic sneaker shoes have a high sole, but they probably do – and this can weaken foot muscles and shorten your Achilles.
If you’re used to working out in standard trainers with an elevated heel, or if you have weak arches or weak ankles, then instead of doing a barefoot workout, you might instead want to simply switch to an athletic shoe with a lower heel.
Take it easy the first few times you do a barefoot workout. You want your feet to gradually acclimate (you don’t want to injure an Achilles or roll an ankle).
Doing a Barefoot Workout Outdoors
Fresh air is good for you, and exercising outdoors provides benefits that gym workouts usually don’t.
Instead of being strapped into a gym machine that forces its range of motion upon you, outdoor functional training develops your coordination, flexibility, agility, posture, and speed.
Shoes that Are Almost Like Being Barefoot
Sometimes I wear shoes when exercising outdoors, but I usually choose shoes that are “low rise,” meaning they do not have an elevated heel. These shoes mimic what it’s like to be barefoot, except they offer added protection from scrapes, stubs, and cuts. Currently, two of my favorite brands are:
- Vibrams Five-Fingers
For those who are too shy to wear Vibrams (they are a bit odd-looking with their separate toes, though they feel amazing to wear), I recommend Altra as they have low-rise models that are attractive and more conventional in appearance.
Conclusion on the Benefits of Cross-Training
The cross-training workout provided here will help you get leaner, stronger, and more agile. It can be done anywhere and even barefoot. It can be done with or without equipment.
Try this training routine for weight loss and improved muscle strength. It’s a barefoot workout that uses higher-intensity interval cross-training exercises to burn calories from fat cells while adding sculpted muscle tone to your body and strengthening your circulation and lungs.
The exercises shared above will help improve your appearance. They will develop your upper body, legs, and core, engage multiple muscle groups, and can be adapted to your fitness level.
When done properly, it is a safe and highly effective workout that will help you move better, even when you’re not exercising.
Additional Resources on Cross-Training Exercises and Moving Barefoot:
Earthing: the Science Behind Grounding – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/
Benefits of Barefoot Running and Walking – https://www.movnat.com/10-human-movements-that-are-going-extinct/
How We Know Humans Are Primates – https://humanorigins.si.edu/education/how-do-we-know/how-do-we-know-humans-are-primates