Often seen as too girly or feminine for dudes who lift iron, yoga is extremely under appreciated. Yoga teaches you, in a different kind of way, what gymnastics teaches you. Total body awareness. This is a skill and ability that should be worked on and honed to the highest ability if you really want to stand out from your peers and take your strength and athletic potential to the next level.
But, what if you don’t want to listen to chanting monks, smell burning incense or be in a hot and sweaty room that is 120 degrees and humid. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.
In this post, we are going to review what we believe are the 5 best yoga poses for strength training. Sure there are thousands of yoga poses out there, but these 5 will really help to make you more aware of your body in order to progress to harder strength training exercises.
A pose that every athlete should perform. The pigeon is a very powerful hip opener that helps to relieve tension that builds up deep in the hip socket. This includes the powerful hip flexors, which lie very deep inside the hip girdle and are often a cause of low back pain when very tight.
Pigeon also helps to stretch out the outside of the leg and hip as well. This can include the outer glutes and the piriformis muscle. These muscles often get very tight from heavy squatting and deadlifting.
To get into pigeon, start in a pushup position and take one leg and bring it up to your chest as far as you can. Now keep your leg there and bring your lower leg out away from your leg at approximately a 45 degree angle. Here comes the challenging part. Sit your hips down on top of your leg and try to touch your butt to the ground. If this is too tough at first, just keep at it, you will eventually get flexible enough to go all the way down.
Aim to perform 1-2 holds per leg for 1 minute each leg.
2. Warrior 2
Warrior 2 for some is a more challenging position to get into than warrior 1. Warrior 2 teaches lifters to maintain stability in the hip knee and ankle much better than warrior 1. It also places greater stress demands on the knee and requires the lifter to be more aware of total body balance and coordination as well . In fact, I often use this pose with most beginners before moving them onto the full barbell squat.
To perform warrior 2, take a big step forward until your lower and upper leg form a 90 degree angle at the knee and your back leg is in a straight line with your toe pointed out to the side. Now take the arm that is on the same side as the front leg and extend it straight out in front of you. Do the same with the back arm/leg.
At first the balance may be difficult so start at 30 second intervals and as you get better aim for 1 minute holds on each leg for 1-2 holds.
3. Downward Dog
Downward dog is a great pose for stretching out the posterior chain from the hips all the way down to the calves. It also helps to provide a stretch in the lower back, shoulders and ankles.
I typically give this exercise to beginners with tight ankles as a warm up/cool down means of stretching out tight ankles prior to doing squats.
The main reason why I choose this pose, however, is because it is the gateway exercise into the inverted and hand balancing exercises such as the handstand and frog stand. In, downward dog, the lifter learns how to shift their bodyweight from their feet to their hands.
To perform downward dog, assume a regular pushup position and push through your hands until your butt is above your shoulders. Your body should make an inverted “V” shape when viewed from the side. Make sure to keep your heels down and your arms straight.
Practice this pose as often as possible for anywhere between 30 sec to 1min.
4. Frog Stand
The frog stand is a great exercise to teach the athlete about hand balancing, which will eventually transfer over to the freestanding handstand.
To perform, squat down to the ground and place your hands in front of you just before your knees, from here shift your bodyweight forward until most of your bodyweight is over your hands. Now from here, just lean forward until your hips are over your hands and your feet are off the ground. You should be balancing your entire body on your arms.
Hold this pose for one full minute for the best results.
5. Mountain Climber
The mountain climber focuses on hand balancing as well, but it takes it to the next level.
Start in downward dog, but this time walk your hands closer to your feet until your hips are practically over your hands. Now here comes the tough part. Bend your elbows and place one knee on top of one of your elbows. Lean forward as far as you can (your chin may actually touch the ground as pictured above). You should find a balancing point. Once you find it, extend your other leg up in the air as far as you can. This is the mountain climber.
Hold this pose for 30 seconds at first. Eventually you want to get your chin off the ground. When your chin comes off the ground, try to hold for one minute.