Cross body conditioning expediting recovery

When an athlete is injured, they rarely stop training completely, they may have a small period off directly after an injury or surgery but as soon as they can they are back in the gym working muscles that aren’t affected. Why is this? Well simply they don’t want the rest of their body to decondition, but they are also taking advantage of cross or ipsilateral body conditioning principles. This is a principle that we at Absolute Balance often take advantage of to help injured workers return to work in an expedited timeframe.

There are obvious benefits to engaging in an exercise programme early on in a return to work plan, such a reducing the impact deconditioning has on an individual. A gym-based programme also gives the individual a purpose and a goal and has been linked to positive psychological outcomes for injured workers. By shifting the focus from the affected limb or site of injury, an individual is able to achieve goals and maintain a better ability to complete day to day tasks. This essentially puts the individual on the front foot when undertaking a focused rehabilitation programme. Studies have also shown that two weeks of inactivity can lead to a 33% decrease in strength.

The added bonus to early intervention is the effects of cross body conditioning; studies have repeatedly shown that unilateral training has an effect on the contralateral side with neurological strength maintenance or improvement. This has been described under many terms including cross-transfer, cross-over effect, cross-exercise, contralateral learning, contralateral traininginter-limb transfer or cross education. Regardless of what you want to call it, the effects are extremely beneficial to athletes and to the common injured person. By stimulating the uninjured limb, the injured limb that is immobilised in a sling/cast/cam boot or restricted with use will see a smaller decrease in muscle strength and under the right training conditions see an increase. It is generally accepted that these strength gains are the result of two neurological functions: “spillover” and/or “transfer” since physical changes like hypertrophy or fibre conversion do not accompany the strength gains.

Although this idea has been hotly debated for decades, the latest evidence-based research supports the claims and benefits of cross body conditioning for injured workers and other populations. An Accredited Exercise Physiologist is the best-placed individual to prescribe a programme to deliver physical outcomes. All our clinicians at Absolute Balance use evidence-based outcomes to achieve outstanding results for our clients. For more information visit or email .



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Manca, A., Dragone, D., Dvir, Z., & Deriu, F. (2017). Cross-education of muscular strength following unilateral resistance training: a meta-analysis. European Journal Of Applied Physiology117(11), 2335-2354. doi: 10.1007/s00421-017-3720-z

Munn, J., Herbert, R., & Gandevia, S. (2004). Contralateral effects of unilateral resistance training: a meta-analysis. Journal Of Applied Physiology96(5), 1861-1866. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00541.2003

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Wages, N., Beck, T., Ye, X., & Carr, J. (2017). Unilateral fatiguing exercise and its effect on ipsilateral and contralateral resting mechanomyographic mean frequency between aerobic populations. Physiological Reports5(4), e13151. doi: 10.14814/phy2.13151