March 6, 2018
How Yoga Can Make You Faster
Regular yoga practice can offer significant benefits to athletes in many sports, from increased flexibility, enhanced core strength and injury prevention, to better mental focus.
But it seems rowers in particular can see real performance gains by incorporating yoga into their training regime. It was in fact this idea that has been one of the driving forces behind innovative new gym Grow – London’s first indoor rowing focused boutique gym, opened in January 2018.
Alongside indoor rowing classes, Grow offer a range of yoga classes to maximise the rowing training benefits.
Still skeptical? We have outlined below just a few of the ways yoga practice could directly translate into faster times on the water.
Enhances shoulder mobility
Yoga asana (postures) take the arms and shoulders through a wide range of movements in multiple directions, which can help to ease shoulder tightness and improve range of motion (ROM). Many yoga poses require body weight to be supported by the arms in different positions, which challenges different muscles from different angles. This helps to even out any muscle or postural imbalances that may have built up over time.
Deeply stretches hamstrings and quads
Tight hamstrings can prevent rowers from maintaining efficient technique, leading to slower times on the water. Inflexibility also causes a multitude of problems including pain in both the lower and upper back. Yoga can really help here, with forward folds in particular getting right into those powerful hamstrings and gently stretching out the entire length of the back.
Backbends, on the other hand, will help to open up the chest, while deeply stretching the quads at the same time. Stretching your quads out is especially important for a rower, when we consider the fact that they are the key driver in the stroke sequence.
Promotes spinal health
Yoga is full of multi-directional movements, which play a key role in stabilising the core by ensuring that the spine can twist, flex and extend in a healthy way, maintaining its natural curve, without putting any single part of the back under undue pressure.
“Rowing involves repeating fixed lines of movement, which can cause various connective tissues surrounding joints and muscles to become rigid.”
Improves tight hip flexors
A common problem for rowers, tight hip flexors can lead to poor alignment of the pelvis and spine, leading to uncomfortable tightness in training. Check out Grow’s blog, which includes a test for tight hip flexors as well as stretches that can help.
Yoga can strengthen and stretch tight hip flexors by working deeply into the psoas via various poses like lunges and hip extenders, which will also help to stretch the calves. These deep stretches can be a little painful to begin with, but it’s well worth it once you achieve that much-needed release.
Increases core strength
Yoga plays with gravity through slow, sustained movements that require you to support you own body and “float”. By encouraging a slower flow, instead of jumping straight into postures, the small but vital stabiliser muscles are put to work and are encouraged to fire in the correct order, all the way from stabilisers to global. This ensures that muscles attaching to key points of the spine function efficiently, helping to protect you from injury and strengthen your core.
Eases fascial tightness
Rowing involves repeating fixed lines of movement, which can cause various connective tissues surrounding joints and muscles to become rigid. This tightness will restrict ROM and reduce functional movements. Practices such as Vinyasa (flowing) yoga move connective tissues and myofascial chains in different directions (vectors) – with poses that include twisting, side bending, reaching and folding movements. Yin (long deep stretches) also works at this fascial level, stretching, lubricating and generally making tissues much more malleable, increasing your ability to move efficiently.
By incorporating regular yoga into your training regime, you can expect to see your flexibility and core strength significantly improve, helping you to maintain efficient form throughout the rowing stroke and enhance your catch and finish positions. Yoga can also be an important tool in preventing injury and time away from training.