What are Cross-body Patterns?

If you walk into the gym and take a look around, you will likely see more of the same old thing then the exception. What does this mean in layman’s terms? Well there will be a high percentage of people doing bench presses, back squats, leg extensions and ab crunches.

Is there anything wrong with that? Well, no, not necessarily. But I think it’s time you stepped out of the box and got really familiar with something that you’ve probably never put much thought into… cross-body patterns. You can also call these cross-lateral patterns if you like to get fancy, but they are really one in the same.

Why would you want to add these to your current training regimen? Well, let’s focus in on what happens when you do, say, a biceps curl. You hold a weight in front of your thighs, be it a barbell or set of dumbbells, then proceed to move it toward the upper part of your body.

Once you can go no farther, you slowly lower it back to its starting point and repeat. What just happened? You placed a load on your biceps muscles, causing the fibers a stimulus with the intent to make them grow bigger. That’s fine and dandy, but what else happened? You moved weight in a linear pattern. If you break down the root word of “linear” you get “line.” You basically moved weight in a straight line.

Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. You can still build strength, size and definition, but I have one major problem. Life is not linear. Nothing in Mother Nature is linear; not even picking up a glass of water and drinking it.

Actions of daily living are predominately performed with circular, spiral, corkscrew and figure-eight patterns. THAT right there is the missing element in your workouts that I implore you to zero in on. And this is also where the cross-body patterns come to the table.

Simply put, a cross-body pattern involves a movement where you cross the midline of your body. If you look at a biceps curl, triceps extension or shoulder press, you are not crossing the midline of your body. You might be working a muscle, but there is no usable feedback beyond that.

Now get into a quadruped position on the floor with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees right under your hips. Extend your opposite arm and leg out to form a straight line that is parallel to the floor. Move your knee and elbow inward under your body and touch them together if you have the flexibility. Move them back out and repeat. This is a cross-body pattern.

Not only do these types of drills recruit a higher overall amount of muscle fiber, but they also improve your functional ability better than linear patterns. What’s even better is this. Every time you cross the midline of your body you get a high amount of neurological activation. The more complex the movement, the greater this effect will be.
The end result is better functional ability, an increase in lean muscle mass and better brain capacity. All of these benefits can really lend handy to your sport performance, regardless if it is on a pro or recreational level.

Implements such as Indian clubs, meels, maces, double ball staffs and wands work really well to develop better brain function, dexterity and posture. They are all used with circular, spiral and figure-eight patterns, and you consistently cross the midline of your body.

The load is moved through a smooth, swooping range of motion, which also increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your joints. This, in turn, makes them healthier, stronger and more resilient to trauma. It’s a win-win all around.

All you really need to do is a mere 30 seconds of a cross-body pattern to gain the benefits too. Here is a good drill to do from a standing position at work in the middle of the day when you are in need of a movement break and brain refresher.

Stand with your feet about 3 inches apart and hands at your sides. Reach your left arm above your head as high as possible while lifting your left foot off the floor behind you. Move your right hand backwards at an angle as you twist your head and look over your right shoulder.

Touch the bottom of your left foot with your right hand then move your limbs the opposite way to target the other side of your body. Continue to alternate back and forth for about 30 seconds. You’ve now done a complex, cross-body pattern that will light up your brain like a Christmas tree and also improve your flexibility.

Now it’s your turn. There are no set rules when it comes to cross-body patterns, except experiment with some of your own, be creative and make sure they are not dangerous. Follow that plan of attack and you’ll be fitter, smarter and straighter than you’ve ever been!

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