Man at His Best

Do You Even "Hybrid Fitness", Bro?

Being the Jack of all sorts of fitness trends.

BY Nicholas Fang | Jan 2, 2017 | Fitness & Health


I have a friend—let’s call her Feng—who has won Crossfit and powerlifting competitions, running races, and even physique events—all within the same training cycle, and often within the span of a few weeks. She trains across a wide variety of programmes, focusing on strength and conditioning. In essence, she’s a true representative of what is fast becoming known as “hybrid fitness”.

A quick check online doesn’t reveal many textbook definitions of what hybrid fitness is, but it’s commonly understood to be a way to create all-round athletes, who have the flexibility to combine multiple sports. The general aim is to help them be stronger, faster, more durable and more resistant to fatigue, regardless of their goal.

This sounds like an attractive proposition, and a more holistic way to achieve peak conditioning compared to very specific training programmes, so why aren’t more people embracing hybrid fitness?

Well, for a start, elite athletes need to focus on honing their skills for their specific event. A strong swimmer who can do 100 burpees, complete a Spartan Race and be competitive in a powerlifting event is unlikely to give Michael Phelps a run for his money in an Olympic final. I may be wrong, but so far, we haven’t seen that kind of ability at the world level yet.

The closest example would be US Olympian Sheila Taormina, who represented her country at the Olympics in swimming, triathlon and modern pentathlon. But those sports have some commonality, and she competed in the diŒerent events in separate Games, after she had transitioned away from the previous sport. To do all of them at the elite level at the same time would have placed her among the ultimate hybrid athletes.

Full disclosure: I am an aspiring hybrid athlete. While I’m nowhere near Feng’s level, it’s something that I enjoy. In the past month, I’ve gone kayaking, done an 8.35km open water swim, finished my first Spartan Race, gone rock climbing, and shot shotguns and air pistols. I’m preparing for a run-bike-run duathlon and a marathon, both of which are taking place a week apart. Now I’m hardly world-class at any of these activities, but I have the basic fitness that enables me to plod along and keep up with my fitter friends for at least part of the course.

The best way to train is quite simple: do different things in training every week. It may sound straightforward, but I guarantee you the typical muscular soreness, aches and pains that one experiences after training for a single sport is multiplied across a myriad of body parts. And it really hurts.

Training in one sport is tough in its own right, but the body adapts and becomes relatively proficient in that activity, which makes it slightly less of a Herculean task compared to tackling radically different sports on a regular basis. That being said, the freedom of being able to jump into a full range of different activities is, to me, worth the pain.