Combining yoga and strength training is a match made in heaven.
Whether you’re a dedicated yogi thinking about adding some strength training into your routine, or an avid strength athlete looking at ways to gain that competitve edge… there are some serious benefits to be had by combining these two popular forms of exercise.
It’s not about arguing which is better… but rather revealing the unrivalled benefits you can gain by doing both. They complement each other perfectly, and help to create a near complete fitness routine.
But how should you actually combine yoga and strength training for the best results?
We’re glad you asked… this article delves into everything you need to know about doing yoga and strength training (including benefits for both), and tips for doing it safely and effectively.
Benefits of Yoga for Strength Training
Strength training is great for building muscle… but this often comes at the expense of flexibility. It’s not uncommon to feel tightness and stiffness in your muscles after a tough strength workout.
As the muscles develop and grow, they contract and shorten, often resulting in reduced flexibility and mobility. If ignored, this can really limit your movement and can contribute to bad posture, as well as general aches and pains (not to mention, feeling the effects of DOMS).
Yoga helps to stretch out these tight muscles. This has the short term benefit of reducing the impact of muscle tightness, but it also has the long term benefit of improving overall movement through better flexibility.
Better Range of Motion
As the previous point mentions, strength training involves the muscles contracting and shortening… which is a problem for range of motion around joints like the shoulders and hips.
Tight hips, for example, is a common outcome for those doing heavy squats and deadlifts.
There are countless yoga poses that help to address this tightness around joints and help to improve range of motion.
By having limited range of motion in certain joints, you risk adopting poor form during movements, which can not only reduce the benefits of the exercises, but also increase the risk of injury.
If jumping in an ice bath isn’t your thing, deep stretching and yoga can help avoid soreness and stiffness after an intense strength training routine.
This means your body is ready for another workout sooner… enabling you to progress with a more intense strength training regime.
Better Muscular Endurance
Many weightlifting routines focus predominantly on absolute strength and power… which is different from endurance.
Holding a yoga pose for 1 minute requires very different strength than trying to lift a heavy barbell over your head 6 times.
Including yoga can help improve your muscular enduranace, which brings with it all sorts of benefits and can help support your weight lifting targets.
Yoga is great for improving posture and opening up your body.
Strength training, coupled with sitting at a desk all day, can result in poor posture, so yoga helps to address this and keep the back straight and upright.
Not many strength exercises focus on balance… but this is a key ingredient to functional fitness and all-round health.
Improving balance can have a significant impact on exercises too… think pistol squats for example. Being able to leverage better balance with strength, opens up a whole new world of exercises and workouts.
Better balance also helps with healthy ageing and avoiding falls.
Improved Breathing During Heavy Lifts
Lifting heavy weights involves being aware of your breathing… yet so few powerlifters and strength athletes will give breathing technique much attention.
Yoga helps you to slow down, focus on your breathing and better understand this connection between your mind, body and soul.
Improving your breathing can help during those tough lifts that require more focus on breathing in and out.
Strength training can increase your testosterone levels… which is a good thing when it comes to building muscle.
However, this can sometimes be an aggressor, so practising mindfulness and relaxation techniques with yoga can make a world of difference and ensure you remain calm and relaxed in life.
Benefits of Strength Training for Yoga
Strength training, such as using dumbbells, barbells and other weightlifting equipment, is second to none when it comes to improving strength.
This undoubtedly has benefits beyond the gym and can help make everyday activities easier.
Strength training often brings with it certain connotations but the reality is, everyone can benefit from being that little bit stronger.
As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass, so it’s important to actively do some form of strength training to combat this natural decline and keep your body fit and strong.
Many advanced yoga poses require a lot of strength to actually hold your body in place. By using strength training to increase your strength and power, you’ll be in a better position to tackle some of the hardest yoga poses out there.
Strength training is incredibly effective at burning calories. If your goal is to lose weight or tone up, strength training is definitely worth adding into your fitness routine.
Choosing lighter weights and following higher repetition workouts (at a high intensity) is best for those looking to lose weight or tone up.
Reduce Risk of Injury
Strengthening your muscles is a great way to reduce the risk of injury.
Weak quads, for example, can worsen knee pain, illustrating how strength training can help address the root cause of common aches and pains.
Improves Bone Density
Regular strength training puts increased stress on your bones, which leads to improved done density.
This helps fight off a number of related health conditions.
How to Pair Yoga and Strength Training
It’s clear to see the benefits of pairing yoga and strength training… but how do you pair them for optimum results?
The answer very much depends on the type of yoga we’re talking about.
Yoga is a pretty broad term and includes lots of different styles and approaches. From a calming restorative yoga session to a 90 minute Ashtanga flow, how you incorporate yoga with strength training depends on the type of yoga you’re thinking of.
To build muscle and gain the benefits of strength training, your body needs rest. Quite a lot of rest in fact. This means doing an intense yoga flow the following day may result in subpar performance.
If you imagine doing an intense core workout and then attempting to do yoga the following day that involves lots of poses that require a strong core to support your body… it’s going to be a struggle. Your body hasn’t had the time it needs to recover and you won’t be able to do the yoga poses as well.
So, if your yoga routine is going to be gentle and restorative, then it’s fine to do it on the same day or day after a big weight lifting session, but if your yoga routine is quite advanced, you’ll need to factor in adequate rest and recovery.
Yoga Strength Training Split
Below is a yoga strength training split that provides an example of how you could approach your week to include both strength sessions and yoga.
- Monday – Chest and Tricep Workout
- Tuesday – Restorative Yoga
- Wednesday – Leg Workout
- Thursday – Restorative Yoga
- Friday – Back, Bicep and Shoulder Workout
- Saturday – Restorative Yoga
- Sunday – Rest
Can You Do Yoga and Strength Training On the Same Day?
You can do yoga and strength training on the same day, but it’s probably best to the strength training routine first. Yoga poses could tire your muscles and thus use up the energy needed for your weight lifting, meaning it’s better to do yoga afterwards.
In fact, yoga is a great way to cool down and stretch out the muscles and end a workout.
We tend to use yoga as a tool to keep muscles supple and flexible the following day… helping prepare your body for another strength training session later in the week.
If you do want to do yoga before your strength routine, stick with movements that are going to prepare your body and improve range of motion and mobility like thread the needle, cat cow and prayer stretch. These movements aren’t too taxing so shouldn’t tire the muscles out as much.
Can I Hold Weights During Yoga for Strength Training?
Holding weights like dumbbells or a kettlebell during yoga poses may seem like an easy way to combine yoga and strength training but it doesn’t really provide the underlying benefits of either strength training or yoga. It’s like a compromise between the two… that ultimately results in compromised results.
For example, the aim of lots of yoga poses is to stretch out the muscles and improve flexibility. Trying to add resistance and weight to such movements isn’t necessarily aligned with this original aim. Similarly, doing movements like a dumbbell power clean is more effective at building muscle than trying to adapt yoga poses with additional weight… i.e. you don’t need to do as many or for as long, to build the same amount of strength.
Strength training and yoga are incredibly complementary forms of fitness and when combined, providing a near complete fitness routine that will bring with it all the benefits of both activities.
By doing both yoga and strength training, you reduce the gaps in your fitness and help to create a more well-rounded fitness plan.