Training with weights sculpts your body like nothing else but while it makes you look great, it can limit your range of motion and lead to body imbalances. Yoga is perfect for all fans of weight training because it remedies all the mobility issues gym training may cause and makes your muscles work together like a dream.

Effects of weightlifting on your body

There are many positive effects of weightlifting – it increases blood flow into your muscles, joints and organs, which nourishes them and speeds up any repairs. Of course, it also makes you stronger and fitter which translates into daily tasks as well. Like any vigorous physical activity, weightlifting triggers endorphin release in your brain – endorphins are the happy hormones that make you feel good.

As someone who moves a lot of weight in the gym, you know how to build muscles and that having more muscle mass also means you burn more energy. You eat more protein and antioxidants to help muscle recovery, and you take care of yourself. Those are all great things but…

Lifting weights as your main sport can also cause some troubles. First of all, when you perform a movement targeting a specific muscle or muscle group, you usually isolate it from the rest of the body. That means those muscles are getting bigger and stronger but they don’t work with the rest of your body.

Another effect of lifting weights in the gym is that the repetitive motion shortens your muscles over time. Even if you stretch after each training session, your muscles will lose some flexibility. This leads to a limited range of motion of your joints which can have a negative effect on your movement technique and posture, and may increase your risk of injuries.

What can yoga do for a strength enthusiast?

A lot! As yoga is pretty much a counterpart to weightlifting, it’s a perfect fit. While lifting weights makes your muscles grow, yoga makes them stronger and engages them in functional patterns. It makes your muscles work together, supporting your weight in all sorts of transitions and movements – in short, yoga increases your functional strength.

Read more about functional strength and muscle size.

At the same time, yoga increases your flexibility and that’s very important in order for you to be able to move freely, without limitations. As a weightlifter, you may look good and have amazing muscles but your movements may be severely limited and cause bad posture which hurts other areas of your body. Yoga tunes up your whole body, and that can upgrade your gym game!

Because yoga trains all the deep muscles that help stabilize your joints and strengthens your core it perfectly complements your gym training, leaving no muscle untouched. It makes your lifts safer and more efficient. As research shows, core training not only helps to prevent injuries, it also improves your performance. 

When you practice yoga, it also teaches you to be more mindful and to breathe better. That improves your mental health and reduces stress hormones but has one more benefit – it speeds up your recovery!

Yoga poses for athletes lifting weights

You may be a little apprehensive about yoga. After all, the typical image of a yoga practitioner is miles away from that of a weightlifter. But yoga is for everybody and every body, so you don’t need to hesitate.

Some poses may be easy for you while others more challenging. That’s normal. A slender yoga gymnast may be able to do a split but might have trouble holding a handstand, while it may be the opposite for you.

However, the following poses are suitable for everyone, even complete beginners. Pay attention to your alignment and breath in each of them and you should be able to feel the effects very soon.

1. Downward facing dog

Why is it good for you? It stretches your hamstrings and calves, side body, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, and pecs. At the same time, many muscles are engaged to stabilize you and the head down situation has a calming effect on your mind.

How to do it:

  • Start on all fours, and lift your pelvis up, creating a triangle shape, your sacrum being the highest point – walk your feet further away if needs be, and make sure they are hip-width or wider apart
  • Your legs don’t have to be straight, keep them a little bent, but they should be parallel to each other, heels pressing down
  • Press into your hands, as if you wanted to push the ground away from you, elbow pits are facing each other, head hanging down
  • Actively push the sacrum upwards – bend your knees a little more to achieve this, pressing equally into your hands and feet
  • Remain there for at least five deep breaths

2. Upward facing dog

Why is it good for you? It stretches your entire anterior muscle chain, while engaging spinal extensors, infraspinatus, triceps, hamstrings and calves – many of the muscles needed for safe and strong lifts. 

How to do it:  

  • Lie on your belly, legs straight, tops of the feet down
  • Place your hands under your shoulders palms down, elbows are next to your ribs and aiming straight up
  • Press your pubic bone, tops of the feet and hands into the floor
  • Breathing in, slowly lift your chest and head, and then pelvis and thighs off the floor
  • Look just slightly up, don’t throw your head backwards
  • Stay for five deep breaths, then lower down, and relax your lower back by wiggling your pelvis side to side while still lying on your belly

3. Revolved lunge

Why is it good for you? It releases tension from hip flexors, stretches glutes and pecs, while engaging your back and core muscles.

How to do it: 

  • Start in downward dog and step your right foot forward, in between your hands
  • Your right knee should be above the ankle, your left leg straight, heel above the toes
  • With an inbreath, lift your right arm up and rotate your upper body towards the right so it’s opposite the right inner thigh
  • Look up at your right arm, left hand firmly planted into the mat and breathe
  • After five breaths, return to downward dog and repeat on the other side

4. Extended side angle

Why is it good for you? This pose is great for stretching the side body muscles – serratus anterior, internal obliques, triceps, and inner thigh muscles. It engages all the deep stabilizers too, as well as the quads, which helps you to improve your balance.

How to do it:   

  • Stand upright at the front of your mat, facing forward
  • Keeping the left foot in place and bending the knee, take a big step back with your right leg. When you land, turn your right toes to the right, foot parallel with the short edge of the mat
  • Bend your left knee, so it’s directly above the ankle, and keep your right leg straight, feet planted firmly into the mat, front and back heel aligned
  • On an inbreath, raise your arms in line with your shoulders, then rest your left forearm on your left thigh, and raise your right arm overhead
  • Correct your alignment – right arm should be next to your ear, fingertips pointing towards the front of the mat, your front knee not falling in or out
  • Look up and stay in the pose for five deep breaths, then repeat on the other side

5. Warrior I with a backbend

Why is it good for you? It opens up your shoulders by stretching deltoids and pecs, and engaging the posterior chain muscles. It also engages your core and in the lower half of the body, it stretches the calf muscles, hip flexors and the psoas.

How to do it:

  • Stand upright at the front of your mat, facing forward
  • Keeping the left foot in place and bending the knee, take a big step back with your right leg. When you land, turn your right toes to 45 degrees
  • Front knee is above the ankle, pelvis is facing forward, back foot is firmly planted
  • Clasp your hands behind your back, pull your shoulder blades together and straighten up
  • With an inbreath, bend slightly backwards but only from the waist up, keeping your lower half stable
  • Look slightly up and stay for five deep breaths, then release and repeat on the other side
  • When you’re finished, stand at the front of your mat and fold slowly forward, let your upper body just hang down, bend your knees and relax

Start your yoga practice today!

Knowing where to start is always a challenge, so we’ve made it easy for you. Try our 5-part Mobility Foundations program. It’s accessible yet challenging and just the right mix of what an active gym-goer needs.

Or if you’d like to go straight from gym training to yoga, we have the Post Workout Recovery series that’s tailor made to complement your gym sessions. Each video has just 20 minutes and a different focus so you can match it to your gym workout.

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