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Most competitive athletes go crazy when they're injured because their competitors continue to train. They can maintain fitness by using a training technique called cross transference, and so can you.

When you exercise one leg or arm, you maintain strength, endurance and power in the other limb. The muscles in the injured limb are not strengthened directly (2). Each muscle is made of millions of fibers. Each fiber is stimulated by a single nerve. When you exercise, your brain sends messages along these nerves, telling only about one to two percent of the nerves to contract at the same time. With training, your brain learns to contract a greater percentage of muscle fibers simultaneously. So exercising one arm teaches your brain to contract more fibers in the other arm. Exercising your arms does not strengthen your legs. Baseball pitchers can maintain strength in their injured arm by using their other arm to throw and do resistance exercises.

1) LP Weir, DJ Housh, TJ Housh, LL Weir. The effect of unilateral eccentric weight training and detraining on joint angle specificity, cross-training, and the bilateral deficit. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 22: 5(NOV 1995):207-215. The unilateral training also resulted in increased bilateral strength. Both the 1-RM and isometric analyses showed that the training effects persisted over 8 weeks of detraining.

2)European J of Applied Physiology. 1992;64: 117-126.

3) Med and Sci in Sports 1978;10(2):71-74. Crosstransference cannot be explained on changes in forearm blood flow. N Yuza, K Ishida, M Miyamura. Cross transfer effects of muscular endurance during training and detraining. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2000, Vol 40, Iss 2, pp 110-117

Checked 8/9/08

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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