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The yoga block workout

Yogis use blocks during their practice to regress poses, but make them part of your strength routine and they present an unexpected challenge. “Yoga blocks require a level of stability and range of motion that not every tool demands,” says David Otey, personal training manager at Equinox Sport Club New York.

The reason is twofold. First, the blocks provide a much smaller base of support than the ground does, explains Jenna Matroni, Tier 3+ trainer at Flatiron in New York City. “Their instability forces your body to work harder to find balance.”

Second, they prop you a few inches off the ground, like exaggerated platform shoes. That’s not negligible: When it comes to push-ups, lunges, weighted depth squats, and more, going the extra distance under tension tests your mobility.

Otey created a seven-move routine, demonstrated by Matroni in the slideshow below, that puts a fresh spin on classic moves to improve core stability and joint motion. Plus, you can do it anywhere: at home, in the gym, and on the go, as you can easily add them to your vacation or work trip packing list.

Perform 3 sets of the routine twice a week, for an eight- to 12-week stint. “Your system needs variety every few months to stay on its toes,” Otey explains. It may take a few tries to recruit the right muscles to find your balance, so take each movement slowly and don’t rush the learning process. You’ll have more stamina, strength, and mostability as a result, Matroni says.

Deadbug

Lie face-up and bend the right knee at 90 degrees so the shin is parallel and the quad perpendicular to the ground. Place a yoga block along the right quad, holding it in place with the right forearm so the fingers point up. Extend your left arm overhead and lift the left leg and arm a few inches off the ground. That’s your start position. Slowly move both limbs up and toward each other, keeping them straight throughout, then reverse to start for one rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Bird dog

Start on all fours with shoulders stacked over wrists, hips over knees. Place a yoga block beneath the left hand and another under the right knee. Keep the unsupported palm and shin parallel to and hovering above the ground throughout the exercise. Slowly raise and extend the right arm and left leg until they’re straight and parallel to the ground. Hold for 3 counts, then reverse to start for one rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Depth squat

Start on all fours with shoulders stacked over wrists, hips over knees. Place a yoga block beneath the left hand and another under the right knee. Keep the unsupported palm and shin parallel to and hovering above the ground throughout the exercise. Slowly raise and extend the right arm and left leg until they’re straight and parallel to the ground. Hold for 3 counts, then reverse to start for one rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Depth curtsy lunge

Holding a kettlebell with both hands, stand with right foot on a yoga block, the other hovering at the same height above the ground. Move your left foot behind you and to the right and lower into a curtsy lunge, then reverse to start for one rep. (Your left knee should almost tap the ground at the bottom of the move.) Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Staggered push-ups

Get in plank position with right hand resting on a yoga block, left hand on the ground, and feet at hip-width. Keeping your body straight from top to toe, lower yourself until there’s a 90-degree bend in the left elbow, then reverse to start for one rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Reverse rotary plank

Sit with a yoga block beneath the upper glutes, then lower your upper body to the ground and place a second yoga block between the shoulder blades. Keeping your neck in neutral (rather than letting your head drop), raise the arms so the fingers point up and lift the legs so the knees are bent at 90 degrees, shins parallel to the ground, and feet flexed. That's your start position. Slowly extend the arms and legs until they’re parallel to the ground. Hold for 20 seconds, then reverse to start for one rep. Complete 4 reps.

Pederson step-up

Stand with the right foot on two stacked yoga blocks and the left foot hovering at the same height above the ground slightly in front of you. Hold hands in front of chest and, pressing glutes back, slowly lower the left leg until the left heel taps the ground in line with the front of the blocks, then reverse to start for one rep. Perform 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.