Everyone Who Lifts Weights Needs to Do These Yoga Poses
Most fitness buffs have the weight portion of the routine down, and a fair number even manage to push through a decent amount of cardio. This combination addresses cardiovascular endurance, body composition, muscular strength, and muscular endurance. Even with regular running and weight lifting, there’s still a key piece of the fitness puzzle missing: flexibility. Though the inability to touch your toes might seem insignificant, that you can bench 200 pounds won’t improve your daily life if you’re unable to bend over and pick up your grocery bags. Lack of flexibility also increases your likelihood of developing muscle imbalances and injuring yourself, so it really does matter.
Though any type of stretching can be beneficial, yoga is particularly great because it can also help build strength and help calm your mind. At the end of your next workout, grab a mat and try these seven poses. You’ll be a yogi before you know it.
1. Downward facing dog
One of the most recognized moves, downward facing dog is a great starting point for beginners. For this pose, you’ll start on your hands and knees with your hands just in front of your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Your fingers should be flat against the ground and your toes pointed forward. From here, exhale as you extend your knees until your body forms an upside-down “V.” Your head, shoulders, and neck should all be aligned, so make sure to focus your gaze behind you rather than looking at the ground. Maintain slow, steady breathing as you hold the pose.
This move is more than just a way to clear your mind, too. Active.com likes downward facing dog as a way to help folks who work at a desk improve their posture by elongating the shoulders and strengthening the back. If you find yourself hunching over your computer screen, this pose is a must.
2. Triangle pose
Most adults suffer stiffness in their hips, particularly men. In addition to reduced overall flexibility, lack of mobility in this area can contribute to athletic injuries all along the leg and even make your back hurt. Triangle pose is a great go-to for loosening up your hips. Breaking Muscle says adding this pose to your workout routine can directly benefit your deadlift and kettlebell swings by improving mobility.
To do this pose, start with your feet spaced about four feet apart. Turn your right foot out so it’s pointed to the side and keep your left foot just slightly pointed in, making sure to keep your weight evenly distributed between your feet. As you exhale, bend to the right, ending with your right hand on the ground and your left in the air to form a straight line. After holding the stretch for several long counts, repeat on the other side.
3. Forward bend
After a leg routine of squats, lunges, and calf raises, your lower body can feel pretty lousy. You can stretch all those ailing muscles with one yoga pose, and it’s incredibly easy to perform. Begin standing with your feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. As you exhale, bend over and bring your head to the ground. If possible, extend your hands so they touch the floor. If you’re not quite that advanced, grasp your elbows using the opposite hands.
Those with back problems should incorporate more of a knee bend to avoid stressing the area too much. Also, make sure you’re concentrating during the move. The goal is to deepen the pose rather than to stay completely stationary.
4. Supine spinal twist
Many lifts are designed to work one muscle or muscle group, which is why it takes so long to get through an entire workout. Yoga, on the other hand, is able to tackle multiple muscle groups at the same time. The supine spinal twist is a great example. This move helps stretch out your back, abdominals, and open your shoulders at the same time. DoYouYoga even suggests it can help improve your digestion.
For this move, start by lying on the ground. Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor and slightly shift your hips to the right. Next, pull your right knee toward your chest as you fully extend your left leg and let your right knee drop over to the left side of your body. You can keep both arms extended out to the sides with your palms on the floor, or use your left arm to gently increase the stretch. Turn your head to face the right so your shoulders are fully opened. Verywell suggests holding this pose for five to 10 breaths before switching sides.
5. Cow face pose
After wrapping up a weight session, most people just want to throw on some clothes and get out the door as soon as possible. Ending your workout with some sort of stretching really is important, maybe even more so for weight lifters than cardio junkies. Men’s Fitness explains pumping iron is nothing more than repetitive muscle contractions, which leaves your muscles shortened by the end of the workout. By stretching, you restore your body’s proper alignment and reduce stiffness and soreness later on.
To speed through the stretching process, it’s smart to choose some yoga poses that target multiple areas at once. Men’s Health especially likes the cow face pose after a workout because it loosens hips and shoulders, two areas that are often quite stiff for men. To get started, lower yourself into a seated position with your right leg crossed over your left. Point your left elbow towards the ceiling and reach your fingers between your shoulder blades. Then, point your right elbow toward the ground and reach your fingers up to meet the fingers on your left hand. If you’re unable to hook your fingers, you may have to start out by grasping a short resistance band with both hands. Hold the position for about five breaths before releasing and switching sides.
6. Upward facing dog
In order to see results in the weight room, you eventually have to increase your number of repetitions or the load. Most go for heavier weight, which is helpful for keeping your routine from growing too long. Progressively heavier lifts can be bad for your wrists, though, and injuries are pretty common. In order to keep your wrists flexible and strong, look to upward facing dog. You’ll also strengthen your arms and spine while stretching your abs and shoulders.
To perform this pose, start in the plank position with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Roll over your toes so the tops of your feet touch the ground as you fully extend your arms and bring your chest forward, gazing toward the ceiling. Press your shoulders back, and hold the pose for five breaths or so.
For those with serious back issues, it will take a bit of time to work into this move. Yoga International shares a great tutorial to get started. You’ll take a gentler approach using a chair, eventually progressing to the regular pose.
7. Warrior I
Let’s talk about balance for a second. Though it isn’t exactly an indication of good fitness, you’re always going to be better off feeling grounded as you lift weights. Without a good sense of balance, you run the risk of seriously hurting yourself when heavier weights come into play. Men’s Fitness likes Warrior I because it helps improve balance while strengthening your ankles and calves. You even get a gentle groin stretch.
Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. Step your left foot back several feet and turn it out at about a 45-degree angle while keeping your right foot facing forward. Rotate your hips and shoulders so they’re facing forward. Then, raise your arms directly above your head and press your palms together. After holding the move for several breaths, step back into the starting position and switch sides.