Yoga for Meatheads

by Nathan Tomasello

A simple 10 minute intro to yoga with poses that are beneficial to weight lifters

-Sun Salutation - 1 minute

-Warrior Series  - 3 minutes per side (3 poses each side, 1 minute per pose)

-Standing Bow Pose - 1 minute each side

-Upward/Downward Dog - 2 minutes

Quick, get out a pen and a sheet of paper, it is time for a quick pop quiz.  I want you to make a list of your priorities in the gym and the goals of your workout plan.  Group all of your answers into either “high priority” or “low priority”.

I’m willing to bet with a fairly high degree of certainty that most of your lists would share several common themes:  getting stronger, increasing weight on the big 3 lifts, getting bigger arms, stronger core, lowering body fat, etc.

I am also willing to bet with equally high degree of certainty that there are two notable absences from most of your lists.  Flexibility. Balance.

Flexibility and Balance are two of the most important factors to keeping your body healthy and injury free as you pursue your otherwise meat-headish goals.  It doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to understand that by staying injury free you will miss less workouts and be able to go hard and heavy more often, which will inevitably lead to more gains.  But if this is such a crucial component to training, then why do most weightlifters not place a priority on flexibility and balance? Here are a couple of common reasons:

#1  No Time

I get it.  Your gym time is limited to an hour or two each day.  By the time you get in the door, chug your pre workout, warm up a little bit specific to the days workout, and find the perfect playlist on spotify, the clock is already ticking down and you may barely have enough time to crush the days “get huge” plan.  Who wants to spend a chunk of their precious gym time on something that doesn’t yield measurable - or should I say visual - results?

#2  It’s not my style.

What a meat head excuse.  Just because there is no chalk required and you probably don’t need to grunt during it, doesn’t mean you should skip flexibility work.

#3  My flexibility sucks.

Come on tough guy.  If you had a weak bench, would you just skip that too?  No, of course not. You would find a strategy to improve your bench, implementing the proper accessory work.  The fact that your flexibility is lacking is all the more reason to focus on it.

#4 It’s boring.

Ok you got me there.  That basic static stretch routine you learned in high school gym class is pretty damn boring.  No matter how beneficial something is, if it is boring the chances you are going to implement it regularly are close to zilch.

After taking all of those reasons into account, I can see why all of you meat heads out there struggle with mobility and flexibility.  If only there was a program that was not boring, had a challenging strength element to it, and could be done quickly…maybe things would be different.

Full disclosure:  I have been doing Yoga for years and I love it.  But as much as I would enjoy going to Bikram Hot Yoga class a few times per week, I just don’t have room in my schedule for two hours of flexibility work.  I do know this - the more time I spend loosening up my hamstrings and psoas, the less my recurring back injury flares up, and the harder I can go in the weight room.  In order to solve the time crunch dilemma that I (and meatheads such as yourself) face on a weekly basis, I created a short and simple Yoga program - “Yoga for Meatheads”.  I took several of what I would consider the essential yoga poses and put them together in an easy to follow 10 minute routine. The poses I have selected are the ones that have the most potential benefit to the average weight lifter and should be simple enough for the beginner to master.  The purpose of this routine is to loosen the hamstrings and the entire posterior chain, stretch the psoas and other hip flexors, increase spinal mobility, and improve single leg balance. Here is a breakdown of each pose:

  1. Sun Salutation

Form:  Start standing with your hands at your sides.  Slowly inhale as you raise your arms out to the side and up over head.  As your ribcage expands, arch back slightly as you reach toward the sky, lengthening your spine.  Let your head fall back. Begin to exhale slowly as you bend forward, bringing your hands towards the top of your feet.  Hold the bottom position for a few seconds then inhale as you raise up and repeat. Spend 1 minute moving thru the pose.

Why its good for you:  Let’s face it, years of heavy deadlifting have left your hammys as tight as a guitar string.  The sun salutation will help loosen the hamstrings and your entire spine, all while getting you to slow down and focus on your breathing.  The more efficient you can become with your breathing, the more natural it will feel to time your breaths with your reps during heavy lifting sessions.

  1. Warrior Series

Form:  Start in a lunge position with your right foot out in front and your torso neutral.  Raise your arms up overhead, bringing your palms together. Sink down into the pose until you feel a good stretch in the rear leg.  Arch your spine slightly and hold this position for 20 seconds then bring your arms out to your sides. Rotate to the left, bringing your right arm up front and parallel to your right thigh and your left behind you.  Look straight ahead and hold this position for 20 seconds. Next, shift your right shoulder downward, bringing your right hand towards the inside ankle of your right foot. Push outward against your leg with the back of your arm and push your hips forward (or towards your arm, matching the pressure).  Look upward towards your left arm and hold this position for 20 seconds. Once the pose is complete, rotate back to starting position and step your left foot up so it is even with your right. Step your right foot back and repeat the same sequence on the opposite side. Complete 3 sequences per side, for a total of 6 minutes.

Why it’s good for you:  Everyone loves a challenge, right?  Going back to your excuse about flexibility work being boring, this series is the exact opposite.  If your legs are weak or lack endurance, this six minute grind will expose them. So there is a strength element to this pose series, as well as a flexibility benefit.  The psoas, adductors, and hips will all loosen up and benefit from the Warrior series, making your sets of lunges, split squats, and step ups more beneficial.

  1. Standing Bow Pose.

Form:  Drop your right arm to your side and turn your palm out.  Bend your right knee and grab your ankle stretching your quad.  Reach forward with your left arm as you simultaneously kick your right foot up and back, pressing against your hand.  Do not let your knee flare out as it raises, and strive to keep your post leg strong and straight. Charge forward as far as you can and hold the position as long as possible.  Work on one side for 1 minute, and an additional minute on the opposite side.

Why it’s good for you:  Balance, balance, balance.  What good is all that muscle if you can’t even stand on one foot without falling over?  This pose also gives your hamstrings and psoas a thorough stretching, increasing hip mobility which will have a direct impact on your squat technique.

  1. Downward Dog/Upward Dog

Form:  Start in a push up position. Raise your hips in the air as you push your shoulders down and back, forming an A-Frame with your body.  Drive your heels towards the ground, keeping your legs straight as you feel the stretch from your glutes down to your achilles tendons.  this is Downward Dog. Hold the position for 10 seconds then swoop down into a push up, but let your hips fall to the ground. Extend your arms and arch upward, stretching your abs and letting your feet fall flat.  Hold the Upward Dog position for 10 seconds. Rotate between these two poses for a total of 2 minutes.

Why it’s good for you:    Like most yoga poses there is a strength element involved, as the shoulders and triceps will get some work in the downward position.  Chances are your abs are tight, particularly if you do any type of flexion movements in your core training, and Upward Dog will help combat that.  The achilles stretch on Downward dog is especially beneficial for your squat and deadlift. Tight ankles and lack of calve mobility will cause your knees to drift forward - or worse, your heels to come off the ground - as you set up at the bottom for a heavy pull or when you take a heavy squat down to the basement.  Couple that with the good over all hamstring stretch (notice a trend here?) and you have one of the most beneficial yoga poses for weightlifters.

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