Whether you’re just starting out your fitness journey or an athlete hoping to maximise your results; a well-rounded training programme is essential.
Training programmes are important as they structure your workouts helping to optimise performance and boost physical-emotional well-being (Mandolesi et al, 2018). They play a crucial role in fitness regimes helping to set clear and specific goals (Kasper, 2019).
Though a lot of people do exercise, many are guilty of repeating the same workouts. While it is necessary for an athlete or fitness enthusiast to train specifically towards their goal, focusing solely on one form of exercise may result in neglecting other physical & psychological needs.
In Chinese culture, the yin-yang philosophy represents the interconnectedness of two opposing forces, such as light and dark or cold and hot ( Lee, 1976). Each force cannot exist without the other, though each one can fluctuate in intensity over time. Exercise is no exception and without balance, an athlete who takes a yin approach to their fitness is at risk of lacking in muscular or cardiovascular endurance. Whilst an athlete who takes a yang fitness approach is at risk of injury or burning out.
The yin approach to exercise is internal, holistic, and exploratory with examples such as yoga, tai-chi, and pilates. The main purpose of yin exercise is to increase dynamic movement, focus the mind, and restore the body; helping to alleviate stress & anxiety. Practicing yin based exercises can also improve balance, form, and technique as control and accuracy are key elements (Udupa & Singh, 1972). Too much can however limit your physical challenges, leaving you less prepared for certain athletic demands. For those wanting high intense exercise, it can also be too low energy.
On the other side of the spectrum, the yang approach to exercise is goal-focused, high impact, and specialised. Physical fitness is the main aim of yang based fitness, such as weightlifting, boxing, and running. The core focus of yang training is to see physical results like losing weight, increasing muscle mass, or mastering a skill. This approach can be efficient and effective in reaching physical goals though too much of this style can cause burn-out, injury, or illness.
The ideal solution is to do a combination of both
Fitness for any form of physical activity can be boiled down to these nine factors (Tancred, 1995) and yin-yang training covers all bases providing exercisers with a solid fitness foundation. Moreover, by drawing elements from both styles, enthusiasts and athletes can strengthen each individual component as yin and yang styles complement each other. For example, the strength and power developed through yang training is enhanced by the control and balance of yin training, and vice versa.
- Force – the muscle response to a force that opposes resistance.
- Power – the ability to exert maximum force through a move as soon as possible. The two components of power are strength and speed.
- Agility – the ability to perform sudden movements in quick succession and opposite directions (e.g: Running zigzag).
- Balance – postural control both moving and stationary.
- Flexibility – the ability to perform a wide range of movements without any physical impediments (e.g: musculature in excess, excess fat, etc.).
- Local muscle endurance – the ability of muscles to sustain a lengthy effort in optimal conditions (e.g: pedaling, rowing).
- Cardiovascular endurance – the ability of the heart to supply blood to active muscles and its ability to use blood provided by heart (e.g long-distance running).
- Strength endurance – the ability of a muscle to make a maximum effort repeatedly over a period of time.
- Coordination – the ability to control body movements and perform properly in order to obtain maximum efficiency.
Moving towards a more integrated approach, professional sportsmen and women are recognising the benefits of yin-yang training. Elite athletes Serena Williams, Lebron James, and Stephanie Gilmore have used pilates to improve their sporting performance. Yoga is also incorporated into Manchester City’s and Manchester United’s training routines.
In summary, to achieve maximum well-rounded growth and potential, fitness enthusiasts and athletes should work towards a balanced training programme. An integrative exercise programme that combines mind-body awareness methods with a more physical approach helps the individual to build and refine upon the skills they already know, whilst at the same time continuing to challenge themselves with new movements. As long as the two aspects are in reasonable balance most of the time, athletes and fitness enthusiasts can retain a healthy status.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have a training programme?
- Is your training programme too yin focused?
- Is your training programme too yang focused?
- How you are fairing with each of the nine fitness components?
- Are you maintaining the right balance of all these different fitness levels?
- How do you perceive total body fitness?
Udupa KJ & Singh RH. The scientific basis of yoga. JAMA 1972; 220: 1365.
Kasper (2019). Sports Training Principles. Current Sports Medicine Reports: April 2019 – Volume 18 – Issue 4 – p 95-96.
Mandolesi et al (2018). Effects of Physical Exercise on Cognitive Functioning and Wellbeing: Biological and Psychological Benefits. Frontiers in Psychology. 9: 509.
Douglas Lee (1976). Tai Chi Chuan: The Philosophy of Yin and Yang and Its Application. Black Belt Communications. Sports & Recreation.
David B. Martin Ccs, David B. Martin. (2005). Burgers & Milkshakes: A Pathway Toward Improved Fitness. iUniverse, Health and Fitness.
Tancred B. (1995). Key Methods of Sports Conditioning, în ”Athletics Coach”, vol. 29, nr. 2, pp. 19-20.