CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Adam Fletcher is creating a cook book in the Illinois men’s basketball weight room by adding a unique technique to their workouts.
“I think that if we take different ingredients from each of those recipes, if you will, then I think what we’re creating is the best basketball athlete,” strength and conditioning coach Adam Fletcher explained.
Those recipes are a mixture of movements and exercises from other sports like football, wrestling, gymnastics and … yoga?
“The physical elements of yoga are finding balance and flexibility and a different element of strength,” Kristina Reese described.
Reese is the studio manager and lead instructor at Hatha Yoga and Fitness in Champaign. She taught yoga to the men’s basketball team during John Groce’s time with the Illini.
“It was a fun challenge because these guys are super tall and I’m like, ‘Alright, uh.’ I remember one time like, ducking under a guy’s arm to help him get more alignment in his shoulders,” she said.
While the Illini no longer take formal yoga classes, Fletcher continues to implement yoga poses into the team’s stretches and workouts.
“About the first 25 minutes is all movements,” Fletcher said. “It’s really important to us that our guys can really move through a whole range of motion.”
Besides improving flexibility, both Fletcher and Reese emphasized yoga’s ability to strengthen key areas of athletes’ bodies.
“Building strength in and around the joints as opposed to just pulling on the muscle tissue,” Reese explained. “So, when you’re an athlete and doing a lot of movement, whether it’s running, chasing, jumping, you’ve already built that extra stability around the joints.”
“We want to make sure our guys are stable at the knee and can hold a position,” Fletcher added. “Also, the mobility of the hip. We want to make sure guys can sit through a whole range of motion at the hip.”
The added strength and mobility will not only help the players avoid injury, it will also help them become more well-rounded athletes. As they look to improve upon last season’s 4-14 conference record.