Bodybuilding and yoga aren’t just at opposite ends of the alphabet; they’re about as dissimilar as any two workouts can be.
Where bodybuilding is all about dynamic movements, isolating and developing specific muscles, and training almost purely for aesthetics, yoga involves slow movements, stationary poses and is much more holistic.
But, contrary to what many people think, bodybuilding and yoga can be highly complementary. In fact, adding yoga to your workouts could make your gym time even more productive.
That doesn’t mean you need to join a yoga studio, although you can if you wish. Instead, you can cherry-pick the best yoga poses that offer the most significant benefits.
To save you wading through hundreds of different poses, we’ve identified the seven best yoga poses for bodybuilders. Even then, you don’t need to do them all; just choose the ones that you feel will do you the most good.
Why Yoga for Bodybuilders?
While yoga and bodybuilding are at opposite ends of the workout spectrum, combining them could help make your bodybuilding workouts more productive. Bodybuilding is a very specialist form of training, and it can take its toll on your body. Yoga can help “plug the gaps” left by bodybuilding, eliminating the issues that could undermine your hypertrophy workouts. Yoga could even ward off bodybuilding aches, pains, and injuries.
The benefits of yoga for bodybuilders include: (1)
While yoga is far more than just a form of stretching, there is no denying that regular yoga can help improve flexibility and mobility. While bodybuilders don’t need the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast, better mobility can help prevent injuries and make your workouts more effective.
Short, tight muscles are easily injured, especially during exercises with a large range of motion, e.g., dumbbell flyes and Romanian deadlifts. Also, being able to use a larger range of motion may make some exercises more productive, such as squats.
While some bodybuilders do have good flexibility, many do not. Yoga is an effective way to fix this problem.
Unilateral exercises like Bulgarian split squats, lunges, and single-leg deadlifts are not just good muscle builders; they’re also helpful for preventing injury and ensuring both sides of your body are equally well-developed.
On the downside, you need good balance to do them.
A lot of yoga poses require and develop your balance, and that means you’ll be able to put more into your unilateral leg training. Think how much more weight you’ll be able to lift if you don’t have to worry about wobbling or falling over during your workout.
Your physique will look so much more impressive if you have good posture. For example, when you stand in poor posture, your chest and shoulders cave inward, your abs bow outward, and you look weak and old rather than young and strong.
Yoga can help alleviate the tight muscles responsible for poor posture.
While yoga doesn’t overload your muscles like bodybuilding, it can still make you stronger. Many yoga poses involve adopting and then holding a pose for an extended period. This develops strength when your muscles are elongated. In many bodybuilding exercises, this is the point at which muscles are often weakest, e.g., the mid-point of a dumbbell flye.
Adding yoga to your bodybuilding workouts could make you stronger so you can handle heavier weights and trigger greater hypertrophy. Many yoga poses also involve and develop core strength. A stronger core will have nothing but a positive impact on your workout performance.
Intense workouts are part and parcel of bodybuilding training. However, you must also respect your body’s need for rest and recovery. After all, your muscles repair and grow between workouts.
That doesn’t mean you should be entirely passive on your rest days. In fact, being physically inactive could delay the recovery process.
20-30 minutes of yoga on your rest days will get your blood flowing, warm up your muscles, and help speed up the removal of metabolic waste products, so you recover faster. It could also prevent or reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
A Better Warm-up
A productive workout starts with a thorough warm-up. Rhythmic yoga poses like the yoga push-up (outlined below) are ideal for preparing your muscles and joints for lifting weights. Because they combine strength and mobility elements, some well-chosen yoga poses are one of the most effective and time-efficient ways to warm up before a bodybuilding workout.
Related: Yoga Calories Burned Calculator
The Best Yoga Poses for Bodybuilders
Want to incorporate yoga into your bodybuilding workouts but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are seven of the best yoga poses for bodybuilders to get you started.
Please Note: Most yoga poses have two names – the original Sanskrit and a Westernized version. For simplicity, we’ve used the Western names. Also, we’ve simplified the instructions and avoided most yogic terminology, as that can be unnecessarily confusing.
1. Yoga Push-up
If you only do one yoga exercise, this should be it. The yoga push-up is an excellent preparatory exercise for upper and lower body training. Doing this exercise will warm up and mobilize your shoulders, elbows, lower back, and hips.
How to do it:
- Adopt the push-up position with your arms and body straight. Brace your core.
- Inhale and lower your chest to the floor.
- Exhale, extend your arms, and push your hips back and up to form an inverted V. Lower your head between your arms to gently open your shoulders.
- Move forward and back down into the push-up position and repeat.
2. Upward-Facing Dog
Tight, stiff lower back? Spending too much time sitting at your desk and hunched over your computer? The upward-facing dog is the yoga pose for you. This is a relaxing exercise that will do your lumbar spine nothing but good. It also has a mild decompressing effect, making it useful for after heavy squat and deadlift workouts.
How to do it:
- Lay flat on your front with your legs straight and your forehead resting on the floor.
- Bring your hands up and under your shoulders as if you are about to do a push-up.
- Keeping your hips on the floor, extend your arms and lift your upper body up as far as you comfortably can. Gently lift your head and look up toward the ceiling.
- Either hold this position for 15-30 seconds or slowly return to the floor and do several slow, smooth reps. Try to extend your arms a little further as your muscles relax.
3. Pigeon Pose
Tight hips can affect your ability to squat, lunge, and deadlift, reducing your range of motion and even causing back pain. Too much sitting means that most people suffer from hip tightness. This modified version of the pigeon pose is an excellent hip opener and ideal as part of your pre-lower body warm-up.
How to do it:
- Get on the floor on all-fours. Extend one leg straight out behind you.
- Sit back and roll your bent leg outward, so your front foot is below your opposite hip.
- Lower your body down toward the floor as far as feels comfortable. Rest your forearms on the floor in front of you if you can. Otherwise, just keep your arms straight.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds, and then slowly swap sides.
4. Low Lunge
The low lunge is another great hip opener that also extends your spine and mobilizes your shoulders. It’s an ideal general warm-up for your entire body. Combine with yoga push-ups for a brief but effective two-move warm-up routine.
How to do it:
- Get on the floor on all-fours. Bring one foot forward and up to your hands. Move your rear leg back a few inches if necessary.
- With your core engaged and your hips facing forward, raise your upper body, so you’re upright.
- Without hyperextending your spine, lift your arms up and overhead. Reach for the ceiling.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds, and then swap legs.
- Take this pose up a level by extending your rear leg. This provides a deeper stretch and also requires more balance.
5. Chair Pose Twist
Other than the occasional set of Russian twists, many bodybuilders do very few movements that involve spinal rotation. This can lead to tightness and lower back pain. Adding some purposeful rotation will help alleviate tightness, restore lost mobility, and improve posture and functionality.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet together and hands in the prayer position in front of your chest.
- Bend your knees and descend into a half-squat.
- Rotate your upper body and place the triceps of your right arm against the outside of your left leg. Press your arm outward to increase the twist.
- Try not to round your lower back.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds, and then slowly swap sides.
6. Cat Cow Pose
Cat cow is a very gentle but effective way to mobilize your spine, alleviate stiffness, and prevent back pain. Heavy squats and deadlifts compress your spine, and prolonged sitting can exacerbate the problem. This low-stress exercise is ideal for warming up your spine prior to lifting or just breaking up long periods at your desk or driving.
How to do it:
- Kneel on all fours with your spine and neck in a neutral position.
- Exhale and lift the center of your spine up toward the ceiling. Create a large rounded arch.
- Inhale and lower your abdomen toward the floor, lifting your head as you do so.
- Smoothly alternate between these two positions for 5-10 reps.
7. Child Pose
The child’s pose is an excellent exercise for your cool down or for use on rest days. It gently mobilizes and stretches your ankles, knees, hips, spine, and shoulders. Because it’s such a relaxing pose, you should be able to hold this one for several minutes. It’s also good for lowering your stress levels.
How to do it:
- Get on the floor on all-fours with your arms slightly extended in front of you. Point your toes and press the top of your feet into the floor.
- Keeping your arms straight, push your butt back and lower it down to rest on your heels.
- Press your chest down between your outstretched arms and lower your forehead to the floor.
- Hold this position for 1-2 minutes.
- Extend your range of motion by moving your knees further apart so that you can descend a little further.
- You can also stretch your left and right sides by walking your hands laterally.
Bonus: Simple Sun Salutation Sequence
The sun salutation sequence combines several yoga poses to create a flowing routine that makes an ideal one-stop warm-up. Alternatively, you can do this sequence whenever you want to mobilize your entire body.
To get the most from sun salutations, try to:
- Flow smoothly from one pose to the next
- Breathe only through your nose
- Time your breaths to your movements
- Stay calm and relaxed
- Increase your range of motion as you start to warm-up
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet together and arms by your sides.
- Raise your arms above your head and lean back slightly.
- Bend over and place your hands on the floor next to your feet.
- Lift your hips and straighten your knees, and then bend them again.
- Step back with one leg into a lunge.
- Step the other foot back to adopt the push-up position.
- Bend your arms and lower your body to the floor.
- Keeping your hips on the floor, extend your arms.
- With your legs straight, lift your hips and push them backward.
- Step forward into a lunge.
- Bring your other foot into your hands.
- Stand back upright and repeat.
Use your left leg for the lunges during one round, and then your right leg the next. Continue for several rounds or five or so minutes.
Yoga Poses for Bodybuilders – Wrapping Up
Yoga and bodybuilding might seem like an unlikely pairing, but they actually go together really well. Yoga can enhance your bodybuilding workouts, making them more productive. It can also help ward off the injuries that would otherwise put the brakes on your progress.
Remember, too, that yoga is the oldest form of structured exercise on the planet. People have been doing it for over 5,000 years. So that’s an excellent indicator that it actually works!
You don’t need to trade in your weightlifting belt for a yoga mat to enjoy the many benefits of this ancient workout. However, doing sun salutations or any of the other best yoga poses for bodybuilders will have a significant impact on how you look, feel, and perform.
1. PubMed: Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728955/