Archive for the ‘Flexibility & Yoga For Athletes’ Category
The yoga buzz has been going on for years. While some of the benefits yoga offers are obvious (mind-body calming breathing thing), what are the physical benefits to athletes and those of us like myself who are obsessed with performance? There has to be some benefit, right? Even the most popular sports brand Nike offers a yoga DVD set for athletes.
How Does Yoga Help Us Amateur Ahtletes Improve Sports Performance?
Yoga improves both flexibility and strength. Since most of us amateur athletes have either sit down jobs or somewhat sedentary lifestyles, we lose our body awareness, often develop constricted posture. This affects our ability to generate both speed and power from our limbs by limiting both range of motion and body awareness.
Yoga benefits all athletes, not just the weekend warriors like you and me.
Range of motion and flexibility are keys to effectively performing any type of athletic movement. When you have optimal muscular flexibility it allows for full range of motion which in turn will cause the athlete to perform their intended task to it’s full capacity. Can you imagine trying to long jump with tight hamstrings? If it were me I would probably trip over my own feet haha!
Yoga also improves core strength. Since all body movements, speed, and power generation are dependant on having a strong core and a stable spine, yoga practice keeps the nervous system trained to activate the core. Holding poses in the appropriate posture also enables the athlete to maintain posture and appropriate form during athletic movements. This in turn enables them to perform their task more effectively and powerfully.
Practicing yoga also improves balance, controlled of breathing, and control of mind while performing physical tasks. Each of these is an important factor in mastering athletic skills. This video is a demonstration of NIKE Yoga Spokesperson Kimberly Fowler as she demystifies the practice of yoga. Her signature course, Yoga for Athletes®, is designed to challenge the body AND mind. A professional tri-athlete who suffered a crippling accident, Kimberly was introduced to yoga as a form of physical therapy and continues to take a modern approach focusing on building muscle and flexibility over spirituality. She is the owner of YAS Studio in Los Angeles.
To gain a better understanding of how to integrate yoga into your fitness routine, send me an email or leave a comment and I can suggest some ideas that will work for you.
I suggest a regular flexibility routine or participation in yoga to all my clients but the responses I get aren’t always positive (or compliant). From what my clients tell me, people don’t make time for yoga or flexibility because they don’t relate it to any sort of benefit. More about this in future posts, but it’s generally not until after people have experienced multiple injuries or they are over 60 that they begin to acknowledge there is true value in weekly yoga practice or taking even just 10 minutes a few times per week to stretch.
Another thing I hear all the time from clients is that Yoga isn’t really a workout, it doesn’t burn enough calories for weight loss or correlate with common fitness goals such as body fat loss, weight loss, and improved performance. Simply stated, this idea is false. As this video demonstrates, becoming proficient, or at least competent in yoga can give you an awesome workout while simultaneously reducing the risk of injury and improving performance potential.
The video is about 2.15 long and the girl is working her butt off. Take the plunge into changing your ideas about yoga by checking it out.
Although in some ways it seems counterintuitive, weight lifting injuries, lower back pain, and even the inability to perform certain movements or sports related activities can be caused by limited flexibility of the hamstrings.
The hamstrings are comprised of three separate heads, the semitendinosus, semimembrinosus, and biceps femoris (long and short). The function of the hamstring is to flex the knee, extend the hip, and even rotate the lower leg when the knee is bent. The hamstring is the antagonist to the quadriceps and is even called upon for deceleration of knee extension during walking.
The reason tight or short hamstrings can cause pain or injury is related to the origin of the muscle. Part of the biceps femoris and both semitendinosus and semimembrinosus originate at the pelvis. Tightness can cause the pelvis to be pulled out of neutral alignment which in turn results in lower back pain, postural problems, or other back pain such as sacroiliac joint pain.
Limited flexibility can also cause improper muscle firing by the lifter or athlete. For example, when performing a dead lift, an individual with tight hamstrings and/or glutes often has the tendency to initiate movement from the lumbar spine instead of the glutes and hamstrings. Initiating the movement in the lumbar spine limits the amount of weight the lifter can handle and often leads to lower back injury. A healthy, flexible hamstring allows maximum range of motion through the hip and knee and will allow the lifter or athlete to fire the muscles in the proper sequence.
Hamstring flexibility can be measured by testing your range of hip flexion. To do this, lie down face up and, while keeping your leg straight, raise one leg off the floor as high as you can. The ideal range is between 80-90 degrees. This means the leg should be nearly perpendicular to the floor to be considered ‘flexible’. Irrespective of the test result, a great regimen for keeping your hamstrings (and therefore your lower back) healthy is to try one or all of the following suggestions:
1) Foam roller
The foam roller is used to release tension in myofascial tissues, often called myofascial release. Place the roll on the floor and teach your client how to lay the legs on top of the roll, knees straight and then gently and slowly glide over the roll.
2) Static stretching
Use of equipment such as the MB Stretch bands will enable you to stretch your hamstrings more effectively and intensely than simply reaching over to touch your toes. The MB Stretchband is a simple tool designed by physiotherapists that assists people to use correct body positioning during stretching.
You may be surprised at the level of improvement you can achieve if you test your hamstring flexibility and utilize the stretching techniques I mentioned. You could potentially notice improved running speed, increased strength during certain lifts, reduced back pain, and improved agility. At the very least you will just be more comfortable during daily activities and you’ll experience a general improvement in mobility. It may seem like a burden that offers limited return, but flexibility actually is worth the time and effort.