Don’t get it twisted: Yoga blocks aren’t just for beginners — and they’re not just for yoga, either. While it may seem like these foam and cork cubes have been pigeonholed to assisting vinyasa flows, they can actually take your strength workout to a new level, too. Just take a cue from Caitlin Lavelle, founder of Lavelle Yoga Fit and trainer at Uplift Studios in New York City, who uses yoga blocks during most workouts with her clients. “They foam versions provide an unsteady surface to force people to work on balance,” she says. “They can also help with better body alignment, range of motion and develop proprioception,” aka understanding where your limps are in space. (A key for proper form.)
These tools also add resistance to common moves. “Even for the most seasoned fitness veterans, they can make an exercise feel brand new,” Lavelle says. For instance, squeeze the block between your thighs during a plank or glute bridge and you’ll instantly feel new muscles fire. To learn other ways to incorporate yoga blocks into your workout for heightened strength and stability, check out some of Lavelle’s favorites. Ready to rise to the challenge?
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7 Strength Exercises to Try with a Yoga Block
GIFs: Mallory Creveling / Uplift Studios
1. Dead Bug
Squeeze the yoga block between your elbow and knee for this core-centric exercise and it’ll make your midsection work extra hard during the entire move.
How to: Lie on your back. Place a yoga block the long way between your left elbow and left knee, both joints bent 90 degrees. Extend your right arm and left leg straight up toward the ceiling (a). Slowly and with control, lower both your right arm and right leg toward the ground. Keep your spine in a neutral position and head on the mat (b). Bring your right arm and leg back overhead and repeat for 8-10 reps (c). Then switch sides.
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2. Bird Dog
Here’s where you’ll feel that balance kick into gear, thanks to the elevation. Remember to keep your abs braced to execute the move with solid form.
How to: Start on your hands and knees, with both your left knee and right hand on yoga blocks. Point your left toe behind you (the secret to targeting your core stability) (a). Extend your left arm and right leg straight out, so they’re in line with your shoulders and hips. Keep your shoulders and hips squared to the floor as you move, and your neck in a neutral position (b). Now, pull your left elbow and right knee in toward each other (c). Extend again and keep repeating for 8-10 reps (d). Switch sides.
3. Tricep Push-Up
Want to master the perfect triceps push-up? Grab your blocks — they’ll help get your body in the proper position.
How to: Start in a high plank position, with a yoga block placed right at the top of each middle finger (a). Slowly lower down on a two-count to the yoga blocks (to focus on the eccentric phase), until your shoulders touch them. Make sure to squeeze your elbows in toward your sides (b). Then, press yourself back up to the plank (c). Repeat for 8-10 reps.
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4. Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Talk about finding the right footing. You’ll have to keep your hip and foot flexed and your leg straight to stop the block from falling as you move. This will also turn up the burn on your opposite glute and hamstring.
How to: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet placed close enough to your butt that you can almost touch them. Extend your arms down by your sides and your left leg up toward the ceiling, foot flexed. Place the block on top of your left foot (a). On an exhale, lift your hips up toward the ceiling, engaging your glutes and abs and keeping the block steady (b). Slowly lower your hips back down and repeat for 8-10 reps (c). Switch sides.
5. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
This exercise already tests how strong you can stand on one foot — and the yoga block only makes it more difficult. Engage your core and glutes to stay upright.
How to: Stand with your left foot on a yoga block (a). Keeping you back flat, shoulders down away from your ears and a slight bend in your standing right leg, lean forward, bringing your chest toward the ground and your left leg straight up behind you. Think about keeping your foot flexed and hips squared toward the ground. Hands can remain straight down by your sides, on your hips or up by your ears (b). Squeeze your glutes to come back up to stand and repeat for 8-10 reps (c). Switch sides.
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6. Plank IYTW
Crank up your core stability: The block adds an extra element of unsteadiness. The block in your moving hand will help with body awareness so you hit each letter with precision.
How to: Start in a high plank position with you left hand on a block at its lowest height and your right hand holding another block (a). Lift your right arm straight up in line with your shoulder for form an I, bicep by your ear (b). Tap the block back down to the floor, and then lift it out to a Y shape (c). Next, tap the block back down to the floor, and then lift it straight out to the side in line with your shoulder to form a T (d). Tap your block back down to the floor again, and then lift your arm up to shoulder height and pull your elbow back to form a W (e). Once again, tap the block back down to the floor and repeat for 8-10 reps, maintaining a strong plank the entire time (f). Switch sides.
7. Flying Plank
Tack this on to the end of your workout to give your core one final test of strength. You’ll have to engage everything from your abs to your glutes to your thighs to stay in one straight line.
How to: Start in a high plank position, with a yoga block placed right at the top of each middle finger (a). Slowly lower down to the yoga blocks, until your shoulders are resting on them (b). Practice the flying plank by picking up your right hand and straightening it back behind you (c). Then lift and straighten the right arm (d). When you feel stable, pick up both hands and straighten your arms back by your hips (e). Hold this position for 30 seconds or as long as you can.
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