I don’t typically train clients for bulk, nor do I do Crossfit, so I would appreciate some recommendations in this area.
I have a growing group of weight lifters who are taking my gentle yoga class. They do Crossfit and heavy lifting, and they take class both for the restorative benefits as well as the mobility that they need in order to do some of the lifting. So far, so good. BUT, a couple of them are working on their physical aesthetic, no for competition but to “look good.” They want to ensure that yoga enhances their performance and contributes to their goals.
1) One asked if there is a relationship between the increased mobility in yoga and muscle production, whether positive or negative. Is anyone aware of scientific data that shows a relationship between yoga / stretch / mobility and increase gains in bulk? I have read about the timing of stretching, that a lot of stretching immediately before a heavy lifting workout can de-stabilize in the short term. …but what about on a rest day? Will it contribute to their ability to make strength gains?
2) Any other considerations I should be aware of? At this time, the four men who lift together are taking my gentle class in the evening after a morning heavy lift. I think they take one other instructors’ class on another day.
William Broad, who wrote on the science of yoga, referred to the fairly long history of scientific study of yoga as sketchy and idiosyncratic. However he points out that the studies that have to do with fitness benefit tended to be better designed. And, I would say, in the last 20 or 30 years they have gotten better and better.
It is important to be aware that the specific style of yoga done will have vastly different effects. For example you can search for studies on ‘yoga’ but if you see the benefits from a study that uses ashtanga those benefits may be quite different if the class is yin or kripalu. A lot of studies (particularly that are interested in questions of strength) use Bikram…. the postures are done in a specific sequence, which makes studying this form easier. Ashtanga is also used a lot for the same reason.
Most of the research (certainly the better designed research, but I think generally most of it) with which I am familiar tends to focus on yoga related to specific therapeutic needs: MS, gait and balance in age, mood and anxiety, cancer patients, and so on.
The other big area of research tends to revolve around effects on breath.
So what you are asking for is a bit obscure (as I am sure you realize). I do not know a lot about this, partly because I think there are lots of benefits to yoga, but I think you loose something if it is done just to increase bulk and affect how one looks. I would hope their interest in yoga could be continued beyond just using it as a tool to build mass, but I am struggling here, because I know I am getting judgemental.
Here are a few suggestions:
This is a review article. A pretty good place to start:
Bikram and strength
sun salutation and strength
And this one might really interest you as it is on DOMS
The effects of yoga on cortisol and generally on circulating catacholamines, and on the balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic systems seems to me to be interesting not just as why it might help with mood and anxiety and stress control, but also why it might play a role in a weight loss program.
The best book I know on the physiology of yoga, that I find helpful when thinking about very specific questions is Mel Robin’s ‘A Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yogasana’ I do not think he covers this topic, but I would recommend it as a great resource.
Thank you so much for your reply, Ariadne.
Since I teach in a gym and not a yoga studio, I have become very aware of the multitude of reasons people attend my class. Some of them are into the full yoga experience – what we learn when we are reaching for our toes, not just the ability to touch them, and how that is a mirror for other places in our lives. Others just want a good stretch for all of their major body parts. So I do understand where you are coming from on how the use of yoga to help bodybuild might not be a study that would come from the yoga community because, in the opinion of the yoga practitioner, that’s not the point of yoga.
At the same time, I have a healthy young man whose goals, although different than mine, are important to him. …so I told him I’d do the best that I could do find out.
It also makes total sense that Bikram and Ashtanga would be easier to study, given the specificity of those practices. It might be easier to find data on stretching versus yoga per se, and even then it might not match exactly. It might also make sense for me to research the topic from the Crossfit side – what their recommendations are, and why. I’m not in that world at all, so it will be interesting to learn if there is an official opinion and if so, what it is.
Thank you for referring me to your friend. I will take a look at the site. Cute website name.
Hello Nancy Korf,
Great question; I look forward to the responses. Thank you, Ariadne, for your tips.
Yes, I believe that yoga will enhance their performance and contribute to their goals. Yoga balances the body, improves oxygen flow and lengthens muscles which makes room for more growth. Yoga on a rest day is a great idea; keep on cross training.
Natalie aka NAPS 2 B Fit.
As a follow-up, I sent a message to my boss, who is a level one Crossfit trainer. While he didn’t link me to any scientific data, here were his thoughts. Copied and pasted directly with no edits.
The best gains muscular or strength from yoga would be due to injury pre or rehab, and better muscular recruitment via improved muscular function. The factor that is athlete specific is mobility. Most athletes don’t have the mobility to get into proper positions for weightlifting (overhead squat, overhead press, squat, and sumo deadlift to name a few) leading to improper muscle recruitment patterns. Good mobility equals better mechanics leading to size and strength gains.