By: Kelie Morgan
Director of Team Training, NCSF CPT, USAW Sports Performance Coach, YogaFit
There used to be a line drawn in the sand and most didn’t cross it. Either you were a weightlifting muscle head who loved to pump iron in the weight room and drink gallon sized protein shakes, or you were a spandex wearing, mat carrying, peace-loving yogi. Well I’m happy to say that times, they are a changin’ and the two very different schools of exercise are no longer viewed as mutually exclusive.
The benefits of yoga have become very mainstream in the last decade. Everything from increased Range of Motion (ROM) to reduced stress levels falling within the scope of “yoga benefits”. But it has only been recently that mainstream weightlifting athletes have realized the benefits yoga could have on their weightlifting goals. Here are a few of the biggest benefits weightlifters experience when adding yoga to their weekly routine:
- Increased Flexibility-This pertains to so many elements of weightlifting. Having trouble with hamstring flexibility in your deadlifts? Are your lats or shoulders tight when getting into a good front squat position? To be in the optimal position for many lifts, it requires mobility (how your body moves through various ROMs) and flexibility (your muscles ability to lengthen). Yoga helps with both of these!
- Injury Prevention-Yoga is about listening to your body and doing what feels best and right for it on that particular day. Weightlifting is often about pushing beyond what your body perceives as its physical limits. In yoga, you will learn to come to the edge of acceptable movements and give yourself permission to live within that range while your body adjusts to more. When we begin a regular practice of allowing our bodies to be the guide for our intensity that day, injuries are much less likely to occur because we will have the confidence to allow ourselves to do what is best each day, rather than adhering to expectations we may have set for ourselves.
- Increased Lung Capacity-In yoga, we learn to breathe using diaphragmatic breathing. Simply put, this is breathing using the diaphragm muscle and allows us to utilize our body’s full capacity for oxygen in each breath. Breathing is likewise important when lifting weights but most of us are shallow breathers; breathing only into our chest and taking more frequent, rapid, shorter breaths. This shallow breathing causes more stress to our system and in essence, puts our bodies into “fight or flight” mode on a continuous basis. The practice of deep breathing stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for allowing our body feel and operate at rest. When we learn to breathe deep, our muscles receive more oxygen with each breath, we strengthen our deep core muscles, we provide our bodies more control when weightlifting and we reduce our stress/anxiety levels.
- Soreness Relief-Nothing feels better to the body after a day of heavy lifting than an awesome yoga practice. Spending that time dedicated to bringing length and elasticity back into muscles that are likely tight and on the verge of heading into some serious DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) can be the best way to fight off that second day soreness we’ve all felt! Every great strength and conditioning program should incorporate days of “Active Recovery” into their programming and yoga is one of the best things we can do on those day. Think of it as paying our bodies back or giving them a “work-in” rather than a “workout” that day.
At Wilson’s Fitness, we recognize the value of yoga and this is why we have two entire studios dedicated to the practice, as well as two hot studios for our hot yoga practice as well. On any given week, you can find over 45 yoga classes on our Group Fitness schedule. And in any given class, you will find young and old, male and female, runners and lifters and yes, a few peace-loving yogis as well.