This morning, before I started knocking out some chest presses, lat flies, push-ups, and various other upper body stuff with heavy weights, my instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp had the class do some upward dogs. As in, you know, that yoga pose that you do in your sun salutations.
When you first think about it, it sounds weird to pair a yoga pose with intense, boot camp-style strength training. But then everything make sense once you realize that a lot of asanas are all about stretching and opening up your muscles (and you’re supposed to stretch before you do any sort of workout, so… ya know).
“Prior to any workout session, an active stretch is imperative,” says Steve Uria, creator and founder of Switch Playground, who also has clients perform a yoga series before they start into their strength training moves. “Once your body is slightly warm, an upward dog is an amazing chest opener, and helps the body prepare by activating the major muscles in the upper back as well as lower spinal erector muscles.” He adds that it even activates your cardio pulmonary system and increases lung capacity since you’re fully stretching your abdominals in that position.
Plus, in addition to stretching your upper body muscles, the move is strengthening them at the same time. “Upward dog has so many benefits like stretching the chest, releasing the lower back and any tension in the traps,” says Astrid Swan, instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp. “Your body is also working on strengthening the shoulders, arms, and even the wrists. Before lifting weights, it’s important to incorporate a move like upward dog as part of your mobility training.”
So yoga poses like upward dog work on improving your range of motion, which helps not only prevent injury in upper body workouts but also your regular life, according to Swan. “Before picking up the dumbbells to do chest press or renegade rows, warming up the body with upward dog will ensure for a great workout with improved form,” she says. Is there anything a little yoga can’t help out with?
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