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Increase Flexibility and Strength with Basic Yoga

Updated on December 15, 2011

This is one of the best items to have for your home gym, great for groundwork of any kind

Get a mat that can stand up to some punishment. If thin and flimsy isn't your style, pick up one of the mats below.

Upward Facing Bow Posture

Increase flexibility and mobility while increasing strength

To make sure you don't become an inflexible block of concrete, any strength training program for fighters should incorporate plenty of work to improve flexibility, mobility, and proprioception, or awareness of your body as it relates to your surroundings. As it happens the two go very well together.

One of the best ways to incorporate flexibility into your workouts is with a flowing yoga sequence.  Yoga is a highly effective method of increasing muscular endurance, static strength, and of course flexibility, but it isn't necessary to spend two hours doing yoga everyday to get tangible benefits that can be applied to your training program. With just a handful of yoga asanas or poses, you can increase your flexibility and resistance to injury, while developing a stronger awareness of your mind and body.

One exercise in particular stands out as an accurate barometer for testing your strength and mobility is the yoga bridge. This version, which translates from the Sanskrit to "upward facing bow posture" is great not just for strengthening your back, but increasing the range of motion of your shoulders as well.

After being thoroughly warmed up (see sun salutations below,) lay down on the floor, bring your feet up to your buttocks, and place your hands palms back and next to your ears. From there, push up with your arms and legs simultaneously. Try to lock your arms out, and relax the head, don't hold it up. Take a couple of breaths in this position, exhale and relax. Do this several times daily, but make sure to be very warm first.

In another version of this, If you are strong enough, you can put your arms on your chest, and push up with your legs, hips, and neck. This is the wrestler's bridge, designed to increase neck strength. Go into it slowly, push up with your legs, and do several repetitions. You will be using your head and neck to push against in this one, so back off if it is too uncomfortable.

Another great way to use yoga to increase flexibility in your hamstrings, lower back, and shoulders, is to learn the Sun Salutation series. Doing this for a few minutes to warm up gets your body ready for heavier work on the mat, in the gym, or on the road.  Follow the instructions on the video below to learn it properly.

Practice becoming more flexible each day and you will see amazing results that carry over to the mat.  Remember to balance your flexibility work with strength and power conditioning to get the best results out of your training.

Excellent instruction on the sun salutation

Great instruction for downward dog on this clip


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