Fitness / Hers / His

Yoga and Powerlifting: A Match Made in Heaven

“The last time I opened my chakra so I could feel my peace, I got thrown right out of the pub.” – Terri Guillemets

The Love of Opposites

I must admit that I’m somewhat biased when I talk about yoga. I enjoy it a lot, I do little “mini sessions” of it constantly, and I use yogaesque moves for everybody that I train. Thus, you may need to take what I say with a grain of salt.

Initially it does not seem that yogis and powerlifters have much in common. Yogis typically want to center themselves, become mindful of their body, or just relive stress. Powerlifters want to lift as much weight possible, manhandle things, and become powerful. These two mindsets seem conflicting; however, that is precisely why these two disciplines work so well together.

Many female exercisers have noticed the benefit of incorporating both of these practices into their training regimen, especially the Girls Gone Strong. I’ve met other lady lifters that also incorporate a lot of yoga to warm-up, recover, work on mobility, or simply because it is fun.

On the other side of that I have seen very few, if any guys, opening their eyes to the benefits of yoga (or a similar type of training routine). Many men (especially powerlifters) don’t see yoga as manly or that it is simply a waste of time.

Hard to imagine him doing an asana

Hard to imagine him doing an asana

This is a flawed view because of all of the potential benefits that a lifter could get out of a minimal practice.

“Science” Benefits

  • Improved grip strength and endurance (1)
  • Improved maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressure  (lung) (1)
  • May be a potential treatment for knee and low back pain (2, 3)
  • Obvious Improvements in flexibility (4, 5) but also agility (5)

All of these came from “legit” journals; however, I think ought to point out a few things that aren’t quite as obvious.

Real Benefits

So first lets consider flexibility. Depending on the federation you lift in your depth requirements for squatting may vary slightly (more so how the judges call it because from what I can tell the rulebooks are all about the same).

Garland Pose

Garland Pose

If these two pictures don’t look somewhat similar… you’re an idiot. There are many lifters who have tons of issues “hitting depth” on a squat, but for some reason yogis don’t… I wonder why. Opening the hips and improving flexibility can also carry over to a wider sumo squat or deadlift, if you utilize that cheating style… but it still helps. As we know from science, the wider the base of support (to a point) the more stable one is and the more power that can be produced. Not to mention while utilizing some of the “weird” yogic poses certain muscles may awaken and thereby be able to be more active your lifts.

Back flexibility is another area in which most powerlifters are  greatly lacking.

I wonder if she does... yoga

I wonder if she does… yoga?

This may be viewed by some as cheating, but thats normally just inflexible people whining about what they can’t do. This type of flexibility helps by shortening the distance you have to bench, and also turns the movement into more of a decline press. Typically we all can decline more than we can flat bench press due to greater activation of the lats, which is always a wonderful trick to move more weight.

As for the other points, the increase in grip strength is probably overstated compared to just deadlifting. The increased lung pressure is very beneficial to all those who perform the valsalva (holding your breath to increase chest/abdominal pressure) maneuver. Lastly, I’ve used yoga as a treatment for both knee and low back pain, and it works wonders as long as you take it easy and do the movements properly (find a good instructor).

How to apply

Applying this is pretty simple. Just use some poses as a dynamic warm-up, a stretching cool down, on a separate day, before bed, when you wake up, or whenever. I tend to do a little yoga all throughout the day. I focus more on lower body oriented  poses, or holds because my back is…

Too big to be super flexible

Too big to be super flexible

Here’s a list of poses that I like and use all the time

And many, many more!

In closing, get flexible and you’ll thank me later. As for yogis curious about getting into lifting:

  • The added strength will help you with ALL of your poses!
  • Added muscle mass will protect against injuries.
  • Strength and endurance will improve so you can extend your practice effortlessly.

Trust me, if I didn’t have both yoga and lifting in my arsenal I would not be nearly as strong as I am now.

Be awesome and Namaste

References:

1. BALAKRISHNAN, S., GOPALAKRISHNAN, M., & PRAKASH, E. (2008). Effect of six weeks yoga training on weight loss following step test, respiratory pressures, handgrip strength and handgrip endurance in young healthy subjects. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol52(2).

2. Kolasinski, S. L., Garfinkel, M., Tsai, A. G., Matz, W., Dyke, A. V., & Schumacher Jr, H. R. (2005). Iyengar yoga for treating symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees: a pilot study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine11(4), 689-693.

3. Tekur, P., Singphow, C., Nagendra, H. R., & Raghuram, N. (2008). Effect of short-term intensive yoga program on pain, functional disability and spinal flexibility in chronic low back pain: a randomized control study. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine14(6), 637-644.

4. Raub, J. A. (2002). Psychophysiologic effects of Hatha Yoga on musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary function: a literature review. The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine8(6), 797-812.

5. Bal, B. S., & Kaur, P. J. (2009). Effects of selected asanas in hatha yoga on agility and flexibility level. J Sport Health Res1(2), 75-87.

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5 thoughts on “Yoga and Powerlifting: A Match Made in Heaven

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your article! It made me laugh reminiscing when I took a 260lb powerlifter to a partners yoga class with me (I’m 110lbs). The instructor was tentative about me wanting to attempt a pose balancing him on my back… hey he balanced me! I wanted to try too! Good thing I’m also a powerlifter so all went well:)

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