At first glance, it may not seem like yoga and bodybuilding go together. Yoga doesn’t make you look huge in a ‘s-medium’ shirt!
But the truth is that yoga is the single best thing for anyone who lifts weights. And you’ll be amazed at how yoga can help you recover and grow new muscle.
In this post, I’m going to show you 11 yoga poses for bodybuilders and weightlifters, each with images and tips on how to do each pose. You’ll also learn the many benefits of yoga.
At the end of this post, you’ll get a full yoga workout routine integrating all of these poses.
One thing you will notice is that many of these poses focus on stretching your hamstrings and lower back. This is where many of us bodybuilders and weightlifters experience tightness and pain.
These poses will help tremendously with that!
1 – Downward Dog Pose
The downward dog or ‘Adho Mukha Shvanasana’ (we’ll stick with downward dog) is a pose that stretches multiple muscles like your calves, shoulders, and hamstrings.
You’re using some strength to hold your body up in the downward dog position while also working your core.
*Most all yoga poses will help strengthen your core.
The downward dog pose is an excellent beginner’s yoga pose and should also be in every builder’s yoga routine simply for the stretching of those muscles alone.
Downward Dog Tips:
- Hold this pose for about 1 minute
- Keep your hands about shoulder-width apart (just like bench press)
- Press against the floor with your hands so that you feel your shoulders stretch
- Stay on your tiptoes allowing your heels to fall back, stretching your calf muscles and hamstrings.
- Make sure your head and neck are aligned with your spine.
- Do NOT round your back (just like you wouldn’t round your back doing deadlifts or bent-over rows!)
2 – 3-Legged Downward Dog Pose
This is an extension of the downward dog pose. The difference is you’re lifting one leg up behind you at a time.
Doing the 3-legged downward dog pose will force core engagement even more. You’ll get a deeper stretch and will also feel your lats stretch some in this making it an awesome pose for back day (after your workout).
3-Legged Downward Dog Tips:
- Hold this pose for about 30 seconds for each leg
- Of course, you’ll follow the same tips above for the regular downward dog pose
- When you extend your leg, reach for the sky and get a good stretch
- Keep your core engaged
**Here’s a video explaining the 3-legged downward dog more in-depth. Briohny also talks about how this pose helps work your hip flexors:
You can also learn more about how to work your hip flexors in the guide Unlock Your Hip Flexors.
3 – Cat-Cow Pose
The cat-cow yoga pose is also a deep breathing exercise. On all fours, you’ll take a deep breath in while tightening your ab muscles and then slowly release that air as you push your stomach out.
As you can see in the images above, your lower back will have an arch as you breathe in. And as you breathe out you’ll push your body up and out the opposite way.
What makes the cat-cow so great for bodybuilders and weightlifters is that this pose gives your spine flexibility. It’s even better for those who lift heavy in the gym. You’ll also stretch your back and neck muscles with this pose.
- Do about 5 rounds of this pose, in and out
- Do this movement slowly and focus on taking deep breaths
- Keep your entire body tight as you breathe in
- Don’t breathe out too fast; take your time with this
4 – Standing Quad Stretch with Raised Arm Pose
Many bodybuilders and weightlifters lack balance. That’s due to weak supporting muscles.
You need those supporting muscles to be strong if you want to get better at exercises like squats and deadlifts. And the standing quad stretch is an awesome yoga pose for this purpose.
The caveat is as you’re stretching your quad with one arm you’re raising the opposite arm straight up. This helps you increase your ability to stabilize and balance your body, which is key for bodybuilding.
Standing Quad Stretch with Raised Arm Tips:
- Hold this pose on each leg for 10-15 seconds
- Make sure your initial stance is firm (otherwise you will quickly fall!)
- Hold your leg while stretching your quad for a few seconds before raising your opposing arm as this will further the help you stabilize your body
- Once your hand is raised you can also bend your body slightly towards the leg that you’re holding to stretch your obliques and lats
The standing quad stretch while raising your arm also engages your hip flexors. You can read more about how to work this muscle directly in the guide Unlock Your Hip Flexors.
5 – Standing Forward Fold Pose
You may also recognize this as toe-touches. It’s also a yoga pose called the forward fold.
The difference is with the standing forward fold you don’t necessarily need to lock your knees. Your knees can be bent.
The purpose of the forward bend for weightlifters is stretching your lower back and hamstrings. In fact, this is a great pose to do after your back and leg workouts.
Forward Bend Tips:
- Hold this pose for about 1 minute
- Start with your knees bent in a comfortable position
- As you loosen up you can gradually extend your knees so that your legs are straighter
- You can also grab your ankles to pull your body in for a deeper stretch
6 – Warrior 1 Pose
The ‘Warrior 1’ is another excellent yoga pose for balance and stabilizing your spine. You’ll also get a nice quad stretch doing the warrior 1 post.
You’ll also stretch both your lats, shoulders, and chest muscles as you raise your arms up. It’s also a great pose for your hip flexors, which are an important muscle for lower body exercises in the gym.
If you’re just starting out with yoga or with this specific pose, step forward first and then gradually raise both hands while looking up.
As you get more comfortable this pose will become natural and you will raise your arms up as you’re stepping forward.
Warrior 1 Tips:
- Hold this post for at least 30 seconds on each leg
- Step forward enough so that you can stretch your opposing quad (the leg behind you)
- Remember to look up as you literally reach for the sky; this will ensure that you stretch your lats and chest muscles deeper
- Twist your palms so that they’re facing towards you
- Kneel down as long as you can without your knee touching the ground
**There are different variations of the warrior pose. The video below shows you all 3, including the one we just went over (try the others too!):
7 – Lord of the Dance Pose
Are you ready for the most challenging yoga pose?
The ‘Lord of the Dance’ requires an immense amount of balance and core stability. And practicing this pose will give you more of that!
This is a one-legged pose while leaning your torso forward, reaching out, but holding the opposite foot behind you.
Why is the Lord of the Dance great for bodybuilding? It is one of the ultimate balancing and core stabilizing poses you can do, strengthening all of those muscles you don’t work out while you’re in the gym.
You’ll also be working your hip flexors here. There’s an additional guide specific to your hip flexors you can read about called Unlock Your Hip Flexors.
Lord of the Dance Tips:
- Hold this pose for 10-15 seconds for each leg
- Start with a simple standing quad stretch
- Slightly bend your knee to give your body that leverage and balance
- Slowly bend your torso forward while stretching your arm straight out in front of you
**Here’s a video that may help more with the Lord of the Dance yoga pose:
8 – Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
The kneeling hip flexor stretch is similar to the standing quad stretch with your hand raised. The only differences are you’re kneeling.
You’re also stretching your quad as you did with the Warrior 1 pose. If you recall, you’re going to place your knee slightly behind you to stretch that muscle.
This pose will stretch your quads and lats but is especially good for your hip flexors.
*This is a great pose to do between sets of exercises like squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows, or any heavy movement.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch Tips:
- Hold this post for about 30 seconds on each knee
- Make sure your knee to the ground is behind your body; get that in place prior to raising your arm
- As you raise your arm above your head, sightly extend your stabilizing leg outward; this will help stretch your hip flexors even more
You’ll notice that many of these poses involve your hip flexors. This is your ‘hidden survival muscle’ and it’s crucial to work them, especially if you lift weights.
You can learn more in-depth about the proper exercises to work your hip flexors in this guide Unlock Your Hip Flexors.
9 – Spinal Twist Pose
The spinal twist yoga post is an awesome way to stretch your lower back, outer quads, and glutes.
In addition, this pose can really help with digestion and organ health. As you know us bodybuilders eat more protein than the average person (and more food in general). So the spinal twist is a must-do pose.
Spinal Twist Tips:
- Hold this pose for at least 1 minute per leg, preferably 2 minutes per leg
- Start seated while taking one leg and crossing it over your other leg
- Use the opposite arm to pull that leg in close while twisting your body the other direction, placing your other hand behind you
- Try to twist to the point where you’re looking the opposite direction
**There are multiple ways you do the spinal twist, so I’ve included a video below that shows you the variations. Try them all and choose the one that best fits your body type and current level:
10 – Seated Forward Fold Pose
Similar to the standing forward fold, this is the seated forward fold. In laymen’s terms, this is a seated toe-touch (though some choose not to touch their toes, and that is okay).
The goal here is to stretch your lower back and hamstrings. This is another great post to help recover from your back and leg workouts. And of course, it helps with flexibility.
Seated Forward Fold Tips:
- Hold this pose for at least 1 minute
- Gradually fold your body forward in a seated position
- Do not bend forward too far or too fast
- Once you get to a comfortable yet semi-challenging position, hold it there and gradually increase your reach every 10-20 seconds
11 – Baddha Koṇasana Pose
The Baddha Koṇasana yoga pose is more of a concentrated dose. This helps with everything from circulation to organ health per the Yoga Journal.
All of which are important to weightlifters and bodybuilders, due to all of the stress we put ourselves through with those brutal workouts.
You’ll also stretch your inner thighs and groin area with this pose.
Baddha Koṇasana Tips:
- Hold those pose for up to 2 minutes
- Start by just sitting in a comfortable position with your legs straight out (as if you were doing a seated forward fold)
- Pull one leg in at a time so that your feet our facing and touching one another
- Get into a firm position by hold your feet with your hands
- Use your elbows to push down on your legs as your goal is to get your outer legs as close to the ground as possible
Yoga Routine for Bodybuilders
|3-Legged downward dog
|30 seconds each
|Standing quad stretch
|Standing forward fold
|30 seconds each
|Lord of the Dance
|10-15 seconds each
|Kneeling hip flexor stretch
|30 seconds each
|Seated forward fold
Try to go through this routine once each day. And if you can do it more, like 2-3x in one session, that’s even better!
I’ve found it’s best to do yoga after your workouts or at least a few hours apart (ex: lift weights in the morning, do yoga in the evening).
Why Yoga and Other Benefits
One of the most neglected aspects of bodybuilding and strength training is stretching your muscles. Doing yoga covers that.
You’re also working muscles with yoga that you normally do not work. But yoga, of course, is more than just stretching.
Below are some key benefits of doing yoga per the American Osteopathic Association’s article ‘The Benefits of Yoga‘
- Can enhance your mental state
- Some poses help with digestions
- Increases your overall flexibility
- Improves your balance
- Strengthens joints and muscles you may not use otherwise
- Protects you from injury
- Gives you energy
- Can improve your muscle tone (a huge plus for bodybuilders)
Of course, there are much more yoga poses that you can do. And most of them are beneficial to us bodybuilders and weightlifters! But this routine is a great place for you to start.
It won’t be long before you start seeing and feeling the benefits of yoga. And you may be surprised at how much stronger you are in the gym once you start doing yoga poses on a regular basis. So make this a part of your daily routine.
I hope you enjoyed this post and start this yoga routine today!
Train with Passion,