Yoga is essentially a meditative practice combining deep, therapeutic stretches with focus on the breath. It certainly isn’t something most people would associate with bodybuilding. However, yoga is a great partner to weightlifting and can actually be the basis behind better performance in your lifts, more depth in your squats, and overall better form when training.
Why flexibility is important for bodybuilders
Yoga promotes flexibility and mobility, providing an important foundation for bodybuilding. Many weightlifters have poor hips and thoracic spine mobility. This t-spine runs from the nape of the neck down to the abdomen. It is the foundation for all shoulder and arm movement, meaning everything related to pushing, pulling, or lifting heavy weights is relying on the function and mobility of the t-spine to execute.
Bodybuilders and normal gym-goers alike are also usually culprits for hip tightness and immobility which can result in incorrect or lazy form, especially where squatting or deadlifting is concerned. The hip flexors include a complex web of muscles and tendons, which can become shortened and weakened due to prolonged sitting or repetitive movements.
Better form = less risk of injury
Yoga takes care of these issues by providing a deep stretch to these crucial mobility points. Under high loads, your body must maintain stability and if one of these points are compromised, it’s easy for the body to begin overcompensating with another muscles. This leads to strain, sprains, and pains.
Yoga helps to maintain this stability by engaging the core, which supports the spine allowing you to lift bigger loads with better form, thus reducing the risk of injury and increasing your overall bodybuilding performance.
Yoga helps your muscles look better
Stretching muscles can make them appear more aesthetically pleasing. Not only this but if you’re into competitive bodybuilding, yoga teaches you proper movement and correct posture to hold the body and present it in its most attractive form.
Nicolina Sandstedt, a yoga trainer from the Yandara Yoga Institute, Mexico, explains:
“The body awareness and alignment focus that the practice of yoga asanas [positions] offers helps bodybuilders find correct posture. Yoga also teaches elegance in transitions that improve competitive posing.”
Increased flexibility (duh)
Bodybuilding, and weight-lifting in general decreases flexibility if you aren’t training with correct posture or form. A lot of bodybuilders are used for quick, explosive movement and dont self-monitor their bodies as they perform their lifts. Neglecting to do so can result in sloppy technique or simply in not using the selected muscle to its full potential.
Yoga helps by slowing down movement to a science, allowing you to become aware of the kinetic chain and how different postures and flows of movement result in different outcomes. Yoga really emphasizes functional movement, which helps you to learn how to properly support your own bodyweight.
How to improve flexibility through yoga: 4 exercises to do
Becoming more flexible allows for a greater range of motion, resulting in better muscle balance, joint stability, and the proper activation of working muscles for overall better quality of movement. For bodybuilders or anyone who’s keen to get bigger, the best yoga exercises are the ones that harness core activation and engagement, as well as strengthening that t-spine and hip flexors.
Try these 4 yoga movements on your next rest day:
1. Bird-dog pose
Bird-dog pose is a great core activator, which helps to lengthen and loosen the lower back and the hip flexors and tendons, especially the TFL which is one of the biggest culprits to rounding or tilting while performing heaving lifts. It’s also a great glute activator to incorporate before or after heavy leg days.
Positioning yourself on the floor in tabletop position, engage the abs by extending the right leg straight behind you as you extend your left arm out in front simultaneously. Hold a few seconds before repeating with the opposite arm and leg. Be sure to perform this pose slowly as to fully engage the core.
2. Pigeon pose
This pose is one of the best ones for loosening tight hips and increasing hip mobility and flexibility to allow for better squat performance.
On all fours, bring your right knee forward placing it behind your right wrist. Position your ankle somewhere in front of your left hip. Slide your left leg back straightening it out flat behind your body. Keeping hips square, slowly lower the upper body down toward the mat, feeling a stretch in the right hip.
3. Downward facing dog
One of the most common yoga poses, the downward facing dog pose is great for providing stretch and flexibility to the entire body with emphasis on the calves, hamstrings, and shoulders.
On the hands and knees with wrists directly under shoulders, press into the palms of the hands lifting your butt up toward the sky, envisioning an upside-down ‘V’ shape. Slowly lower the heels down toward the floor as far as comfortable to get a decent stretch in the back of the legs. Remember to keep the shoulders down and away from the body.
4. Boat pose
One of the best core poses in yoga is the boat pose. It is a pose that relies on correct posture and total engagement of the core. This translates well into performing lifts that require core body stability such as overhead presses.
Sitting on the floor, bend the knees with feet flat on the ground. Lean slightly backwards, placing the arms behind your butt with fingers facing forward. Begin by raising one leg then the other off the ground, keeping them straight at a 45-degree angle. Take your arms and extend them out toward the front, keeping shoulders down and away from the body.
Other general benefits of yoga
You learn how to breathe properly
Breathing plays a vital role in yoga. The breath is used to control movement and to maintain that mind-body awareness that is so integral to a yoga practice. For bodybuilders, learning to breathe properly with full controlled breaths when performing heavy lifts will result in more power and less stress on the body.
Bodybuilders should practice mindfulness for better focus at the gym and to help improve recovery time between sets. Mindfulness has several benefits outside of the gym, including the alleviation of stress and anxiety, better concentration performing everyday tasks, reduced heart rate, deeper sleep, and an improved ability to cope with pain.
Improved quality of life
Yoga is said to improve your overall quality of life by enhancing spiritual well-being, reducing depression, and reducing chronic pain. Studies have shown that by focusing on breath and movement, this induces relaxation of the body and mind leading to an increase in the feel-good hormone ‘dopamine’.
Improve bodybuilding performance through yoga
Flexibility is essential for bodybuilders both in the short and long-term and can be achieved through yoga. The best part is that doing yoga comes with other added health benefits too, making it extremely worthwhile. At Bailey Fitness we offer yoga classes at our Perth gyms, so inquire today to take your bodybuilding to the next level.