In terms of a stereotypical weightlifter and yogi, you couldn’t get further apart. Now can you imagine a typical gym bro saying namaste? But don’t be so quick to judge. Yoga is in fact one of the most complementary forms of training to sit alongside weightlifting. So whether you’re just getting into lifting or having been pumping iron for years, why not take a journey into yoga and see what it can do for you?
So how does it actually help?
Range of motion
Having a wide range of motion is essential for progression in weightlifting. Range of motion is how capable your joint is to go through the full spectrum of movement. Not only does it increase time under tension (the time your muscle is contracted under a weight stimulus) but also allows you to play with different depths in your compound and accessory lifts. This can help you to make moves on a range of weightlifting movements, giving you the option to target different muscles. Take your squat for example - range of motion in the hips allows you going below parallel to hit the hamstrings and glutes, while a traditional parallel squat will build your quads.
Yoga’s combination of static stretches fluid movements helps to increase your range of motion across the body - from shoulders to hips. Unlike stretching which often is done as an afterthought or on a ‘cold’ body, yoga facilitates a more cohesive way to increase your range of motion.
Core to many key lifts is the ability to stretch and retract the muscle. Let’s take a romanian deadlift for example - this involves bringing the barbell to the shins from a pretty much straight-leg position. This move is an absolute hamstring burner but requires great flexibility in the hamstrings to be performed correctly.
One of yoga’s many, and perhaps most obvious, benefits is improving flexibility. But how does it actually do this? Inherent to yoga is the connection to the mind and breath. With a peaceful mind and strong breath, you can work to move deeper into the stretching poses. With regular practice, your muscle memory ‘remembers’ being in the position and gives the OK to keep pushing further. It’s like the parallel to progressive overload in weightlifting.
Despite yoga seeming to be a gentle form of exercise, and in some cases it is, it can help to build your bodyweight strength. Many of the moves require a level of strength and control in muscles and positions that are quite different to weightlifting. Yoga itself works holistically, often with much more increased time under tension. Holding these positions for a longer period of time and the novel movement patterns they’re paired with not only will hit different muscles than you’re used to but improve muscle tone too.
Finally, we have core activation. In every compound lift and many accessories, you might have heard to ‘brace your core’. This helps you to support your back when lifting heavy and ensure that the only muscles you’re working on are those the lift is supposed to hit. The range of movements included in your standard yoga class, require and promote good core strength. You might see that the plank features a lot - this is often the ‘gateway’ to the next move. In addition, yoga teachers will often throw in a little bit of core-focused work throughout a class including crunches, toe touches, knee to elbow variations and more plank variations. So, you can skip the abs in the gym - win-win.
How to roll it into your training?
There are several ways you can work yoga into your weightlifting training. The first and perhaps most obvious way is to sign up for a yoga class. However, if you’re not partial to a group class, find a class online or simply take yourself a few of the key stretches daily watching TV or listening to a podcast.
Our favourites for weightlifting include:
- Pigeon pose
- Downward dog
- Cat cow
- Triangle pose
- Upward dog
Give them a go - all you need is yourself and a mat. These simple movements could make a significant impact on your weightlifting progression and also keep those dreadful DOMs at bay.