It always seemed to me that visiting sauna was a traditional and unconditional attribute of the weightlifting training process. The coach taught us to visit sauna at least once a week since the beginning of my sports career. During my stay in the National Team, sauna was scheduled for Tuesdays and Saturdays and it was just as impossible to miss this event as the training itself.
But, as it turned out, many weightlifters from different countries have never heard of such a procedure and have no idea what kind of effect sauna has and why it is so important to visit it regularly for each athlete.
The most famous and common are the Finnish, Turkish (hamam) and Russian saunas. The main difference between them lies in humidity and temperature. In case of hamam, the humidity reaches almost 100%, therefore, its temperature should be lower (about 40° C/ 104° F). The Russian bath differs due to its smaller humidity (90%) and higher temperature (60–70° C/ 140-158 ° F) and the Finnish one is recommended to relax and also prevent heart attacks and strokes 80 ° C / 176 ° F.
Is sauna good for your health? Studies of the past 30 years tend to have a positive response. The mechanism of the hamam and the Russian bath is about the same as that of the Finnish (dry) sauna, but it is believed that due to high humidity, the heat quickly reaches the muscles and relaxes them.
Since the idea of sauna is to relax the body, you need to visit it after workouts. Practising sports for some 6–10 hours after sauna does not make any sense. It is widely believed among American bodybuilders that sauna after a workout helps to build muscle mass - but this is not supported by scientific research. In addition, professional athletes (wrestlers, weightlifters) use sauna to lose weight before the competition, removing water from the body: the body loses from 20 to 40 ml of water per minute in the steam room, but this is a short-term effect.
Beginners should start the procedure with 3-4 visits lasting around 3-5 minutes. But if you are already experienced in this matter and want to feel the beauty of saunas or baths, then after the first warm-up lasting 3-6 minutes, you can make another 4-5 more longer (8-15 minutes). We also often use a birch or an oak broom in sauna to improve its effect. By the way, a funny fact, but every time when athletes come to my camp and we go to sauna, where they are met by a “special bush man” and I say that it is necessary to use a broom in sauna, many people look at me with a frightened look and only after trying it they understand the power of a RIGHT sauna. We used to perform this procedure on Saturday to allow the muscles to recover for the next day of rest, and the nervous system to reboot and be ready for a new training week.
Some interesting scientific facts about sauna benefits to confirm my words:
- visiting sauna affects the mortality reduction;
- reduces the risk of stroke;
- regular sauna improves thermoregulation and cardiovascular endurance - even with professional athletes;
- sauna has a strong (though short-lasting, 1-2 hours) hormonal effect on the body. The level of hormone growth and prolactin increases, and the secretion of norepinephrine increases as well;
- sauna moderately increases testosterone levels and reduces the cortisol amount in the body - this speeds up the process of muscle recovery and even increases the training effectiveness;
- the most unexpected consequence of visiting sauna is its positive effect on intelligence and it only works together with exercise.
Thus, we can confidently talk about sauna benefits for the cardiovascular system and overall well-being.
And one more little sauna tradition: during the procedure everybody is warm and some are even hot, that´s why after sauna we always congratulate each other with a “LIGHT STEAM”!
TRAIN TOGETHER – TRAIN RIGHT!