6 Must-Do Yoga Poses for Weightlifters
For most weightlifters, it is very common to get into the mindset of “I only lift weights.” You do not expect to hear from an avid weight-trainer that they cross over into any other type of exercise, whether it be CrossFit, Yoga, Barre, etc.
If it isn’t picking up weight just to put it back down, weightlifters don’t do it. And that includes stretching . . .
Many weightlifters (myself included) are guilty of saying, “I never stretch and I do just fine.” This is surprising, considering many weightlifters also know the importance of ROM (range of motion) when it comes to lifting. Being able to get your body into proper form and alignment on lifts is essential to effectively growing targeted muscles.
As a weightlifter, how can you increase your ROM? Easy – by stretching!
Stretching will expand and lengthen the fascia (the tissue encasing your muscles), giving your muscles more room to grow. With more room for your muscles to grow, you ensure that your long hours in the weightroom are maximized even further.
As a weightlifter, how can you increase your ROM? Easy – by stretching!
Most weightlifters think of stretching and immediately envision passive stretching, listlessly holding one position for 10-20 seconds before moving on to the next. That can sound boring and unappealing.
If this is the case for you, yoga is the perfect remedy! Many yoga poses can help you with the Big 3 (bench, deadlift, and squat), and beyond.
Instead of plain old static stretching that typically only stretches one muscle at a time, yoga can be implemented by weightlifters looking to actively stretch multiple muscle groups at a time (hello, efficiency!) and level up from monotonous, passive stretching.
Weightlifters, try these six yoga poses at least twice a week before big compound lifts and see how your ROM increases!
Here are 6 must-do yoga poses for weightlifters to help increase ROM:
1. Crescent Lunge
This pose is ideal for weightlifters. Here’s how Crescent Lunge benefits weightlifters:
- Stretches the psoas
- Stretches the quad and calf of the back leg
- Simultaneously strengthens the front leg
- Alleviates tightness in your hip flexors
How to do it: Standing at the top of your mat with feet hip-width distance apart, step one leg back into a lunge position. Stack your front knee over your ankle to form a 90 degree angle. Sink into your front leg to initiate the stretch in your hips. Squeeze and engage the quad and hamstring of your back leg.
Rooting down into the ball mount of your front foot, sweep your arms up above your head, placing your ears between your biceps. Widen your chest and draw your shoulders down your back. Gaze straight ahead, or if possible, to your palms overhead.
2. Half Pigeon
Half Pigeon is one of my all-time favorite yoga poses before (and after!) a heavy leg day. I highly encourage practicing Half Pigeon before any squats, deadlifts, or exercises that engage the glutes.
Here’s how Half Pigeon benefits weightlifters:
- Stretch out the glute and the hip of your forward leg
- Stretch the psoas and hip of the lengthened leg
- Increased mobility in your hips
How to do it: From Downward Dog, lift your right leg and draw it towards your chest. Drop your right knee to right wrist, externally rotating your thigh and hip. Keeping your right knee in line with your right hip, extend your left leg back behind you, with the top of your foot laying flat on the mat.
Align your right ankle with the right knee as much as possible, flexing your right foot to protect the knee. Keep both hip bones parallel to the floor, and extend arms forward to the top of your mat. Forward fold over your right leg and rest your forehead on the mat.
3. Dancer’s Pose
Natarajasana, or Dancer’s Pose, is a prime pose for weightlifters. Here’s how this pose benefits weightlifters:
- Stretch the standing hip and legs
- Create space in the shoulders, chest, groin, and abdomen
- You will feel a quadricep stretch in the elevated leg
- Standing leg’s quadricep and hamstring is simultaneously strengthened
How to do it: Ground your left foot into the mat, bend the right knee and lift the right heel towards your glute. With your right hand, grab your right foot from the inside edge. Square your hips and raise your left arm out in front of you.
Simultaneously (to keep balance) reach your left arm towards the front as you lean forward, kicking into your right hand/foot to create an equal and opposite kick and stretch.
4. Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose
Revolved Head-to-Knee pose can be utilized as a warm-up or cool-down pose. Here’s how it benefits weightlifters:
- Stretch hamstrings, calves, low back, and side bodies
- Great low-back release
- Increase overall flexibility
How to do it: From a seated position, bend your right knee and draw the sole of your right leg into the inner left thigh. Place your left arm on the ground, palm up, reaching for the inside edge of the left foot.
Lift your right arm up and sweep overhead, reaching towards the outside blade of the left foot. Open your chest by looking up and to the right.
5. Reclining Big Toe 1-3
With a lot of lifts adding compression to the low back, we need to do the converse and release that pressure. Here’s how Reclining Big Toe pose benefits weightlifters:
- Safe way to stretch your low back
- Stretch the entire backside of your body: low back, hamstrings, calves and feet
- Three variations allow you to stay in the supine position and stretch various planes of the body just by adjusting the position of the lifted leg
How to do it:
(1) Lie down with your back on the mat, legs extended. Bend your right knee and bring it towards your chest. Wrap your forefinger and middle finger around the right big toe with your thumb (you can also use a yoga strap around the ball mount of your foot to make this more accessible).
Straighten your right leg and your right arm and push through your right heel. Keep both hips on the ground, and keep your left leg engaged by flexing your left foot and quad.
(2) Once into Reclining Big Toe 1, open your right leg to the right side, working into your hips. Keep your right leg aligned with your right hip, still making sure to keep your left hip grounded.
(3) Opposite of (2), you will cross your right leg over your left thigh, and roll onto your opposite hip, allowing you to keep the bottom leg engaged and left foot flexed.
(6) Standing Splits
Standing Splits is an excellent stretch. Here are the benefits of this pose for weightlifters:
- Stretches and strengthens both legs
- Your planted quadricep and hamstring will strengthen
- Your lifted leg will feel a stretch in the quadricep and hips
How to do it: From Crescent Lunge, lower your palms to the mat. Lift your left leg towards the ceiling. Hinge forward and plant your hands on either side of your right leg. Straighten your right leg and lift your left leg, keeping your pelvis parallel to the ground. If this is challenging, use a yoga block beneath each palm.
Flex the toes of your left leg towards the ground to keep both legs engaged in the pose. Relax the crown of your head towards the ground, giving the spine a release.
Each of these six poses stretches the legs or hips. Speaking anatomically, it is important to stretch to elongate the fascia so that your muscles have more room to grow in it’s casing. Without the added room to grow, you may not be seeing as much muscle growth as you could be.
It is also proven that ROM is key to proper form, and stretching a few times per week will allow your muscles to release and stretch and enhance the range of motion. Better range of motion means deeper squats, better hip hinges, and ultimately more gains in the weight room.