In her presentation at the Resistance Exercise Conference last weekend in Minneapolis, Dr. Vickie Wong of the University of Mississippi presented the latest research on the concept of cross-education: the phenomenon in which training one limb benefits the untrained limb. Cross-education has widespread application when we are injured (whether it’s as severe as having to immobilize a limb or as minor as an achy muscle or joint). At some point, something isn’t going to feel 100% and the latest research on cross-education helps us continue to maximize our strength training outcomes.
Here are my practical take-home messages from Dr. Wong’s research for your next (injured) workout:
1. Cross-education is more effective for your legs. Training one of your legs has a greater impact on strength and muscle mass on the other leg than training one of your arms does on the other arm. If one leg is injured, always train the healthy leg. To be clear, it still works with your arms, just not as well as your legs.
2. Moving through a range of motion is more effective than doing an isometric (a hold or a contraction where you aren’t moving).
3. Using heavier weights is more effective than using lighter weights when it comes to cross-education. To be clear, lighter weights work better than not training the limb at all. If you have an injury to your right arm, consider lifting heavy weights with your left arm.