Yoga is not just stretching. It’s not sitting around ‘om-ing’ or learning to touch your toes. Yoga is a series of specific isometric contractions and passive release work matched with focused breathing patterns that will give you gains in strength, flexibility, and mobility.
This makes yoga the perfect addition to weight training to improve your lifting and reduce the risk of injury.
The six poses below make up a 20-minute Yoga Gym session that is perfect to practice in between gym sessions. Alternatively, you can select individual poses to use post-workout as part of your cool down. The poses target specific problem areas that are common in strength athletes and work to mobilize and strengthen these areas in a way that will improve your performance on the lifting platform.
These include poses that focus on increasing ankle and hip mobility to help you squat deeper, poses to improve hip hinge movement to assist kettlebell work, and poses that will increase mobility and stability in your shoulders to support overhead work such as presses and snatches.
Yoga challenges your body in a totally different way to weightlifting so commit to practicing the poses for 4-6 weeks and see how your flexibility increases, your movement improves, and your PBs soar!
Musculoskeletal benefits: Improved thoracic extension, improved hip flexion, increased quadricep endurance
Weightlifting application: Split squat, lunge, overhead press, jerk
Begin standing and take a big step back with your left leg. Keep the toes of your right foot facing forwards and turn your left foot out by 45 degrees. Raise your arms above your head with your palms together and bend your right leg so your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your hips facing forwards and your palms pushed together. Hold for 1 minute before repeating with your left leg forwards.
Musculoskeletal benefits: Improved hip hinge movement, reduced tension in inner thighs
Weightlifting application: Deadlift, kettlebell swing, kettlebell windmill
Begin in a wide stance with your toes facing forwards, then turn your left foot in about 30 degrees and your right foot out 90 degrees. Spread your arms so they are parallel to the floor and reach over your right leg, hinging from your hips, before bringing your right hand to rest on the inside of your shin or ankle. Look up to the fingertips of your left hand and rotate your chest open to the sky. Hold for 1 minute and then repeat on the other side.
Musculoskeletal benefits: Increased ankle mobility, reduced tension in inner thighs
Weightlifting application: Back squat, front squat, overhead squat, sumo deadlift
Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Turn your toes out slightly and squat down to bring your bottom between your heels. Bring your hands into prayer position pushing your elbows against your inner thighs to increase the stretch. Hold for up to 10 minutes. If your heels don’t come to the floor, then raise them by placing a yoga block or small pile of books beneath them. Gradually release the height of the books as hips and ankles start to gain mobility.
Musculoskeletal benefits: Greater stability through shoulder girdle, increased strength and stability in wrists, improved core activation
Weightlifting application: Bench press, overhead press, front squat, overhead squat, cable twist
Begin in a wide squat and come up on your toes. Place your hands on the floor in front of you shoulder-width apart. Lift your bottom by straightening your legs just enough so that when you lean forwards and bring your shoulders in front of your wrists you can snuggle your knees into your armpits. Slowly transfer the weight into your hands, point your toes, lift your feet off the ground and bring your heels together. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat up to 5 times.
Musculoskeletal benefits: Increased shoulder mobility and strength, reduced tension in hamstrings and calves
Weightlifting application: Front squat, overhead squat, overhead press, snatch, jerk
Begin on your hands and knees and bend your elbows to bring your forearms to the ground with your palms facing down. Hook your toes under and straighten your legs, keeping your forearms parallel and pushing your chest back towards your thighs. Hold for 1 minute.
Musculoskeletal benefits: Increased shoulder mobility, tension release from upper and middle back
Weightlifting application: Overhead press, snatch, jerk, overhead squat, behind the neck press
Begin on all fours and walk your fingers forwards while keeping your hips stacked over your knees. Allow your chest to sink towards the floor and rest your forehead on the ground. Hold for 2-3 minutes. For a stronger stretch, rest your elbows on a bench or sofa and allow your head to drop down between your arms.