As a weightlifter, perfecting body positioning is crucial for performing each lift with integrity and efficiency. Everything from a stable spine to active shoulders helps take the bar or dumbbell from the ground to wherever you need it to go.
Training and perfecting those movements in the gym take dedication, patience and lots of drilling. Beyond working the movements themselves, we need to warm up and recover properly so that our body is prepared to lift heavy when we ask it to. This is where the yoga practice can come in handy.
7 Yoga Poses Every Weight Lifter Should Master: From Warm Up to Recovery
The 7 yoga poses below will do a few things. In terms of a warm up, Downward Facing Dog and Upward Facing Dog together focus on the posterior chain including the calves, shoulders, hip flexors and core. For your lifting, Chair Pose and Crescent Lunge are the two closest poses in the yoga practice to the set up of a deadlift and split jerk. Use these poses as a way to practice your positioning without weight.
And lastly, Pigeon, Criss Cross Arms and Reclined Spinal Twist stretch the main parts of the body: hips, shoulders and spine.
Warm-Up Yoga Poses
The best way to warm up using Downward Facing Dog and Upward Facing Dog is to be in each pose for about 30 seconds and then flow back and forth between the two up to 10 times.
Downward Facing Dog
Start in a plank. Shift the hips back and walk the feet towards the hands 2 inches or so. Place the feet hips distance apart and the hands shoulder distance apart. Turn the hands out slightly so that the first finger of each hand points forward. Bend the knees slightly, press through the palms as though to push the mat away. Send the outer hips up, keeping the spine long. Feel your tailbone extend towards ceiling. Once the maximum extension of the spine is reached, begin to slowly straighten the legs, drawing the heels down. Relax the neck and gaze in between your feet. Hold down dog while you breathe through the nose for up to 2 minutes.
Upward Facing Dog
Start by lying your stomach on the floor with the hands placed on the ground by your floating ribs. Press through the palms and the tops of the feet. Extend the chest forward and up as you straighten the arms. Feel the shoulder blades squeeze together as you broaden the chest. Feel the quads engage and the inner thighs roll inward and up. Keep the tailbone extending towards the heels to prevent too much arch in the lower back.
Yoga Poses for Weightlifting
Use these poses to physically and mentally prepare for your lifts. Breathe calmly in and out through the nose as you hold these positions. Think about your deadlift and split jerk positions and focus on the things you know you need to work on.
Start standing with your feet together. Bend the knees, keeping the shins vertical and the weight exclusively in the heels. As you pull the front ribs in, keeping the spine long, raise your arms overhead. Draw the shoulder blades down the back and pull the biceps inline with the ears. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Start by stepping the right foot forward into a high lunge position. Feet should be inner hips distance or a little wider. Drive down through the right heel and extend through the inner left heel. Feel the tailbone lengthen down as you pull the front ribs in. Extend the arms up overhead. Hold here for 30 seconds and switch.
Yoga Poses For Muscle Recovery
These poses, when held for more than a minute are a great way to release the tension and stretch those areas most responsible for lifting. Ease into each stretch and allow gravity to do the work.
Bring the right shin forward and place it on the ground. Keep the right foot flexed. The right knee should be to the right of the hip. Extend the left leg back. Roll towards the front of the left hip so the hips are square towards the ground. Depending on tightness, keep the right foot close to the left hip. Inch the foot forward if there is no pain in the right knee. Once you feel an intense stretch in the glute, walk the hands forward, resting the forehead on the ground or on your hands.
Criss Cross Arms
Start by lying on your belly. Then, sit up onto your forearms. Thread the right arm by moving it under your left arm. Then walk your left arm out to the right until you’ve reached your limit. Move the body forward so you are laying more on top of the triceps. Allow the chin to fall towards the triceps as you relax the head down. Slowly breathe in and out through the nose, relaxing the shoulders, neck and chest.
Start by lying on your back with your left knee tucked into the chest and the right leg straight out in front. Shift the hips to the left and, on your exhale, send the left knee to the right. Extend the left arm out to the left. To continue the stretch up the back of the neck, gaze towards your left fingers. As you breathe, you will notice your left knee will begin to drop towards the ground.