Yoga and Strength Training – Introduction
Yoga and Strength Training Are Perfect Partners – Here’s Why!
Strength training and yoga are very different types of exercise.
You could even say that they’re opposites!
Where strength training involves dynamic movements, lifting heavy weights, and developing muscle strength and size, yoga involves slow, rhythmic movements, low resistance, static poses, and breath control.
But just because strength training and yoga are on opposite ends of the workout spectrum doesn’t mean they don’t complement one another.
In fact, they’re perfect partners and go really well together.
This article explains the benefits of yoga for strength trainers and reveals the three yoga poses that every lifter should do.
The Benefits of Yoga for Strength Trainers
Not convinced that yoga deserves a place in your strength training workouts?
Check out these benefits and then decide!
While you don’t need the mobility of an Olympic gymnast to do squats, deadlifts, bench presses, lunges, and power cleans, you do need better-than-average mobility to do these exercises correctly and safely.
For example, tight hamstrings make it all but impossible to maintain a neutral (slightly arched) lower back during squats and deadlifts.
Lifting weights with a rounded back is an excellent way to end up injured.
Adding yoga to your workout schedule will improve your mobility and increase your range of motion, leading to safer, more effective strength training workouts.
Balance is an important fitness component and something that tends to decline with age and lack of use.
Strength training has the potential to improve your balance, but only if you do a lot of unilateral training, meaning one limb at a time.
Common unilateral strength training exercises include lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and step-ups.
Because most of the exercises in your workouts are probably bilateral (two-limbed), you will likely benefit from doing some additional balance training.
That’s especially true if you also play sports.
A lot of yoga poses challenge and develop your balance.
As your balance improves, you should find you feel more stable during your strength training workouts, leading to improved performance and better results.
While yoga won’t overload your muscles like strength training, it can still make you stronger.
Yoga involves holding poses for an extended period.
This builds strength with your muscles in an elongated or stretched position.
This is commonly a point of weakness during many strength exercises, for example, at the bottom of a squat or mid-point of dumbbell flyes.
Incorporating yoga into your strength training workouts could help you lift more weight or do more reps, making your workouts more productive.
Additionally, a lot of yoga poses involve your core and develop abdominal strength.
A strong core is critical for effective strength training.
Posture is the alignment of your joints, and it can be good or bad.
Good posture means your joints are properly aligned, and very little muscle tension is required to keep you there.
In contrast, bad posture means your joints are not so well aligned, and you’ll need to use much more muscle tension to maintain your position.
Examples include a rounded upper back, forward head carry, and hunched shoulders.
Poor posture affects how you look, feel, and perform and can be a source of pain.
It could even make certain exercises harder to perform correctly.
Yoga helps stretch the tight muscles responsible for poor posture.
Faster recovery between workouts
Strength training takes a lot out of your body.
As such, you’ll need to rest between workouts before you’re ready to train again.
Yoga helps you recover faster, so you can get back in the gym sooner.
A yoga workout stretches your muscles, mobilizes your joints, and increases circulation.
This helps speed up the removal of metabolic waste products, enhancing recovery and warding off post-workout stiffness and soreness.
While there is a limit to how many times you can train per week, even one extra workout could help you reach your fitness goals sooner.
Fat loss and fitness
Yoga is a form of aerobic exercise.
Poses are usually held for a minute or two and often done in sequences.
Combined with traditional nasal breathing, this increases your heart rate, which raises your metabolic rate and delivers an effective if low-intensity cardiovascular workout.
While yoga can’t rival running, cycling, swimming, or rowing for fitness, it can still help improve your general conditioning.
Anywhere and anytime
While a lot of exercisers practice yoga in dedicated studios, you can also do yoga anywhere you have space to lay out a mat.
You don’t need any additional equipment, which means yoga is the ideal home workout.
That said, if you are new to yoga or have limited mobility and flexibility, you may benefit from using yoga blocks and straps, which help make it easier to get into some yoga poses.
But, even if you do need these items, you can still equip yourself for yoga for just a few dollars.
The Best Yoga Poses for Strength Training
The best way to learn yoga is to go to a class or work one-to-one with a qualified yoga teacher.
However, you can still benefit from yoga by incorporating a couple of basic yoga poses into your strength training workouts.
Here are three of the best yoga poses for anyone who lifts weights.
(Note: we’ve purposely used the Western names for these exercises rather than the traditional Sanskrit, which is the official language of yoga.)
#1. Cat cow pose
Heavy squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses compress your spine and can leave you with a sore lower back.
Prolonged sitting often makes matters worse.
The cat/cow pose is an easy, gentle way to mobilize your spine and alleviate tightness and stiffness.
How to do it:
- Kneel on all fours so your hips are over your knees and your shoulders are over your hands.
- Tuck your chin in slightly and lengthen your neck.
- Exhale and lift the middle of your back up toward the ceiling.
- Imagine there is a string pulling your spine up and into a rounded arch.
- Inhale and lower your belly down toward the floor, creating an arch in your lower back.
- Lift your head up toward the ceiling.
- Alternate between these positions for 5-10 reps or until your lower back starts to loosen up.
Cat Cow Pose
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#2. Yoga push-up
The yoga push-up combines two well-known yoga poses – the upward and downward dog.
This is an excellent full-body warm-up, and helps mobilize and stretch your calves, hamstrings, hips, lower back, shoulders, and arms.
How to do it:
- Adopt the push-up position so that your arms are straight and your hands are directly under your shoulders.
- Brace your core.
- Inhale and bend your arms, lowering your chest to within an inch of the floor.
- Exhale, straighten your arms, and push your hips backward, so your body forms an inverted V.
- Push your heels down into the floor and your head through your arms to open your shoulders and chest.
- Descend back into the push-up position and repeat.
Wake-Up Yoga Push-up
3. Low lunge, twist, and reach
This is another multi-purpose yoga pose that stretches and mobilizes your lower and upper body at the same time.
Combined with the yoga push-up, these two exercises will do wonders for your mobility and flexibility.
How to do it:
- Step forward into a lunge.
- Keep your rear leg straight.
- Place your opposite hand down on the floor next to your front foot.
- Reach down and try to touch your front foot with your opposite elbow.
- Rotate your shoulders and reach up toward the ceiling.
- Stretch your arm forward, and then transition into another rep.
- Stand back up, swap sides, and repeat.
Low lunge with twist into overhead reach
Bonus: Sun salutation warm-up
Whether you want to get your body ready for a workout or just get moving after a long period of sitting, the sun salutation sequence is an excellent way to do it.
It combines several yoga poses into a flowing series and works your entire body in the process.
Note: there are several different sun salutation sequences, and this is a simplified, westernized variation.
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 and Strength Training – Wrapping up
Yoga is the oldest form of structured exercise on the planet, and people have been practicing it for over 5,000 years, which suggests that it really works!
And while we’re not suggesting that you trade your weightlifting belt for a yoga mat, adding yoga to your workouts could make your strength training more productive and help ward off common weightlifting injuries.
All you need to do yoga is a suitable mat and a little space.
As such, you should have no problem doing at least a couple of yoga poses before or after lifting weights, even if you strength train at home