5 Yoga Poses Powerlifters Should Try For a Better Big 3

Yoga's for everyone, especially deadlifters.

When you think of yoga, you (may) think of men and women wearing stretchy clothes twisting themselves into knots, granola hippies who would not hurt a fly.

Let us put this stereotype to bed.

Here are five athletes who practice yoga and bust the typical yogi stereotype.

  • Shaquille O’Neal, NBA
  • LeBron James, NBA
  • Ray Lewis, NFL
  • Kevin Love, NBA
  • Evan Longoria, MLB

It’s worth noting that yoga can refer to a variety of religious beliefs and practices, but if we’re talking about the Western notion of yoga as exercise, it was introduced to the Western world by an Indian called Swami Vivekanada, who demonstrated yoga postures at a World Fair in Chicago in the early 1890s. 

There are eight different types of yoga practiced but Hatha yoga is the one predominantly taught in the West. Hatha yoga is a gentle introduction to basic yoga postures which will have you feeling longer, looser, and more relaxed.

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns.

20 rep squats

 3 Yoga Benefits For The Powerlifter

Combining lifting with yoga is a great way to improve your muscular strength and endurance, help improve posture and achieve better balance and flexibility. Here are 3 more ways yoga will improve your lifting performance.

  1. Better Mobility

Combining bench, squat or deadlift with a complementary yoga pose will help improve your ability to get into a good squat, hinge and press position while you’re getting after it and acts as an active recovery move between sets of strength.

  1. Decreased Injury Risk

Combining deadlifts with a suitable yoga pose could help strengthen your back and hamstrings, decreasing the risk of injury, even in simple actions like bending down to pick up something, including a heavy weight.

  1. Active Recovery

Yoga poses (combined with breathing) performed after a strength exercise help relax the working muscles, helping you to recover to crush the weights again.

[Related: The 8 Best Yoga Poses for Olympic Weightlifters]

warrior pose
Luna Vandoorne/Shutterstock

How To Program Yoga Poses

Here’s how to go about programming these kinds of moves.

Straight sets

When performing straight sets, instead of waiting 2-3 minutes for your next set, consider introducing a yoga pose to act as an active recovery instead. For example,

1A. Squat or deadlift variation 3-6 reps

1B. Lizard Lunge with Thoracic Spine Rotation


If you are performing supersets, try adding a yoga pose (making it a tri set) acts as an active recovery. For example,

1A. Lower body exercise 8-12 reps

1B. Upper body exercise 8-12 reps

1C. Downward Facing Dog 6 reps

5 Yoga Poses For Better Big 3

If you are the type of lifter who will stop at nothing to improve your squat, bench, and deadlifts, you’re in luck. Three yoga instructors (who lift) are about to describe five yoga sessions to improve your hip and shoulder mobility for better benching, squatting and deadlifting.

Don’t worry about the weird looks you’ll get. You will be the coolest looking lifter in the gym.  

[Related: 7 Strategies to Improve Recovery After Heavy Lifting]

Steven Head, CSCS – Strength Coach and Author

First up:

1. Downward Facing Dog 

“This mobilizes the hamstrings, calves, T-spine mobility in extension, and shoulders,” says Head. “So much bang for the buck.”

“I teach it as a static pose as well as dynamically to warm up calves prior to jump/bounds/hops/runs/sprints/sled work. It is also a great counter to sitting, slouching over the computer/desk.”  

Form tips

  • Start in all fours/quadruped position with hands 10-12 inches forward of shoulders
  • Initiate an anterior pelvic tilt, (this helps counter the tendency of the lumbar spine to flex once up in the pose) lift knees off the floor, push through the floor to send the hips up and back
  • Engage quadriceps to straighten legs as much as possible
  • Drop weight into/through the heels to gently stretch calves, and Achilles
  • Avoid active plantar flexion (common mistake is to actively raise up heels)
  • Envision aligning body in an ‘A’ Frame, and lengthen through the entire spine 

2. Cow Face Pose (Upper only)

“I teach this typically as two different poses, a lower and an upper. The two together in the full pose is very advanced and challenging.

“It may remind you of the shoulder mobility screen from the FMS. Upper will almost always require one to use a yoga strap. It’s great for shoulder mobility, counter some of the effects of repeated deadlifts and bench presses.” 

Form Tips

  • Sit comfortably in a chair, you’ll need either a yoga strap, and band or even a towel
  • Hold one end of the strap, raise that arm up and drape the strap behind your back. Elbow should point toward the ceiling as best as is possible
  • Triceps of upper arm should face forward, upper arm close to the head
  • Internally rotate the lower arm, reaching behind the back and grab the opposite end of the strap
  • Gently ‘walk’ each hand toward the other along the strap
  • Keep chest up, thoracic spine extended (think “sit tall”)
  • Head should be level, cervical spine in neutral, eyes looking straight ahead
  • Breathe consciously, diaphragmatically
  • ‘Time’ the pose with a count of breaths, (e.g. 5 slow, conscious breaths)
  • Switch arm positions and repeat

Raphael Konforti, Get Fit With Raph

Next up:

3. The Lizard Lunge With Thoracic Spine Rotation

The benefits:

Ankle Mobility

“The ankle will go through active dorsiflexion in both the front and back leg which can be modified with foot placement,” he notes.

“To emphasize ankle mobility the front leg and be pulled back so the tibia can be angled more towards the ground. Ankle mobility is typically the limiting factor with squat depth and plays a role in deadlifts as well.”  

Hip Mobility

“Positioning the lead leg out wide simulates a squat position. Many hamstring stretches are felt at the knee however squat depth requires length to also come from the hamstring insertion at the hip.

“As the knee stays over the ankle joint and away from the body the adductor is also lengthened. Keeping the back leg extended also stretches the hip flexor which commonly limits hip mobility.”  

Thoracic Spine

“In order to get proper leverage on the bench press you need to be able to fully extend the thoracic spine. Adding the rotation trains t-spine mobility as well as stretching the chest.

“This mobility lowers strain on the shoulder joint while also enabling you to arch your back on the bench press more so you have a more advantageous lever while pressing.

“T-spine mobility also plays a large role in maintaining proper spinal positioning in the squat and deadlift.” 

[Related: 4 Movements to Improve Your Thoracic Mobility]

Stephanie Lauren, Founder & President PLYOGA Fitness

The move above is the Warrior II pose.

4. Warrior II Pose 

“An amazing Yoga pose to help open up the hips and both abductors and adductors, engages the core, and strengthens the quads,” she notes.

5. Prayer Squat (aka Garland Pose) 

“A very challenging pose/stretch that over time does get easier and more comfortable. Definitely helps stretch the ankles and hips and helps with hip and ankle mobility to increase range of motion.”  

Wrapping Up

Yoga and lifting complement each other. And by practicing these five yoga moves, you’ll improve your mobility, recovery, and ability to get into good lifting positions.

Yoga is not only for people wearing stretchy pants anymore.

Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image via fizkes/Shutterstock