Originally published on Fitness First
If you think yoga isn’t a man’s game, it’s time to get off the bench. Serious lifters have finally caught on to the numerous ways yoga can increase performance at the rack. More mobility and flexibility, a stronger core, better balance and increased endurance – what other reasons do you need?
Here are five essential poses that every strength trainer should know. No chanting required . . .
D-dog essentially mimics an overhead press. Aside from strengthening all the muscles needed to push a bar overhead, holding the pose improves shoulder stability and flexibility.
Dog also stretches your hamstrings and calves, while improving ankle mobility – major problem areas for many squatters. Meanwhile, you’ll be strengthening your thigh muscles, one of the prime movers in a powerful squat.
Start in the top part of a push-up with your hands underneath your shoulders. Press your hands evenly into the ground then push through them, lengthening your arms. Keep your knees bent and focus on lengthening your spine, then rotating your sitting bones up. Lengthen your legs as much as you can while keeping your spine long. Spin your armpits towards each other.
Pyramid not only lengthens your hamstrings, it’ll hit your hips, thighs and calf muscles, too.
You’ll be activating your trunk muscles and creating length in your spine, which means a smooth hip-shoulder line and stronger back. Tighten up your hip-hinge game with pyramid and your deadlifts will be more explosive than ever.
Stand with hands on hips and feet hip-width apart. Take a step back and put your back heel on the ground. Hinge forward from your hips, keeping your back straight; don’t let your front knee cave in. Stop when your back starts to round, then rest your hands on your thigh. If your hammies are tight bend your front knee, but keep the back one straight. Your hips stay aligned.
Guilty of spending too much time at the bench and not enough time on the seated row? Couple that with a desk job and you’re on the express train to hunchback territory. Overdeveloped chest muscles and weak shoulder stabilising muscles (rotator cuff) are bad news for your training and posture.
Learn how to activate and strengthen your stabilisers and you’ll recruit them in big upper-body lifts, rather than just muscling through with your arm strength. Keep your rotator cuff healthy and be a happy lifter for years to come.
Strengthening your stabilisers means also means you’ll be able to hold your shoulders back as you pull iron off the floor.
Extend your legs behind you, feet together. Pull your belly in hard, put your hands besides your ribs and tuck your elbows in close. Squeeze your shoulders together and lift your chest off the ground using your back muscles – not your hands.
Extended side angle
This pose increases hip mobility, thigh strength and hamstring flexibility. Master it, then watch your clean and press, squat and military press go next-level.
You need to turn your glute stabilising muscles on hard to keep your front knee in line with your toe, while holding your hips open – essential for getting more depth and power in your squat, safely.
Reaching your arm over lengthens tight lats and opens up the intercostal muscles in your ribs. This directly applies to going overhead, but the bonus is that it’ll help you breathe so much better by unlocking a tight chest.
Start with your legs wide, turn one foot forward while the other stays parallel. Bend the knee of the straightened foot until your knee is stacked on top of your ankle and your thigh is parallel with the floor. Tense your front glute to keep your knee in line with your second toe, the tense your back thigh. Now traction both feet towards each other. Rest your elbow on your front knee and reach your back arm long. Roll your shoulders open to open your chest.
Get ready to get uncomfortable because this is the mother of all hip openers. You’ll feel your glutes on one side while your opposite hip gets a working. This directly applies to pretty much all major lower-body exercises, plus it’ll give desk-jockeys in particular lower back relief.
Bend one leg while lengthening the other straight behind you. Completely close your front knee to protect the joint and keep the back leg active. Roll the hip of your lengthened leg down so your lower back is level. If you’re really tight this will take a while, so put a block or rolled-up towel under your bend-side hip. Gradually walk your hands forward until you get a decent stretch, but don’t push too far. Go to your happy place and breathe.
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