Trying to keep fit and healthy can sometimes feel like you’re piecing together a jigsaw puzzle.
One such perplexing piece is figuring out the best time to practice yoga when you’re also hitting the weights.
Should do yoga before or after lifting weights?
If you’ve found yourself tangled in this fitness conundrum, worry no more… we’re here to unravel the mystery, backed by science, to help you create a fitness routine that perfectly balances yoga and weightlifting.
- Generally speaking, it’s recommended to do yoga after lifting weights.
- This is because excessive static stretching just before an intense weightlifting session might compromise the muscle’s ability to contract efficiently.
- Focus on dynamic stretches and movements (which could include *some* yoga poses) before exercise and longer static stretches after exercise.
- Yoga after a workout can help to stretch out muscles and aid recovery.
Yoga Before Vs After Lifting Weights – TL;DR
It is generally recommended to do yoga after a weightlifting session (or on a rest day).
Research has highlighted that excessive static stretching (e.g., holding a yoga pose) just before an intense weightlifting session might compromise the muscle’s ability to contract efficiently… thus impacting performance.
Lifting weights also requires a great deal of muscular strength so you want your muscles to be fresh for the task at hand, and not already tired.
Yoga also serves as an excellent way to cool down, stretch, and promote recovery after an intense workout.
Everyone is different… and the overall impact of doing yoga before lifting weights would likely depend on the specifics (such as type of yoga poses and routines you’re doing), but this reasoning is why most CPTs and Strength and Conditioning Coaches would recommend to do yoga after lifting weights.
But, like all good stories, there’s more to this narrative. Keep reading to explore the nuances of this fitness dynamic.
Why Is Yoga Better After Lifting Weights?
Before we dive into the ‘why’, let’s clear something up… there’s a science to this fitness alchemy.
It’s not just about the feel-good factor of yoga or the strength prowess of lifting. It’s about how our body reacts and responds to these different types of exercise.
So, let’s get our geek on and unravel the four big pointers on why yoga is better after lifting weights.
Maintain Muscle Strength for Heavier Lifting
In a study published by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it was found that static stretching – a key component of yoga – performed before weightlifting could lead to decreased muscle strength and performance.
By practicing yoga after lifting, you ensure that your muscles remain primed and strong for the heavy lifting ahead, kind of like saving the best of your energy for the most challenging task.
Muscle Flexibility and Performance
Yoga is fantastic for promoting flexibility, but an overly flexible muscle just before an intense weightlifting session might compromise the muscle’s ability to contract efficiently.
This is because, according to a study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, prolonged stretching can alter the muscle’s viscoelastic properties, meaning it might not respond as effectively during weightlifting.
Yoga isn’t just about stretching; it’s also a therapeutic activity that promotes recovery.
Studies have shown that restorative yoga can help decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol, promoting faster muscle recovery.
Similarly, the gentle, elongating postures of yoga can alleviate the symptoms of DOMS, which commonly occur after an intense weightlifting session. A pose like reclining pigeon pose is a personal favorite stretch post-leg day.
Enhance Mental Calmness and Focus
After a challenging weightlifting workout, your body isn’t the only thing that needs cooling down – your mind does, too.
Yoga, with its meditative qualities, brings about a sense of calmness, reducing the mental stress induced by heavy workouts.
This mental relaxation can aid in better sleep, which according to the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, is also very important for muscle recovery and growth.
In a Nutshell
How to Schedule in Strength Training and Yoga
Creating harmony between yoga and weightlifting in your fitness routine can seem like a task as monumental as organizing your sock drawer (you know it, we’ve all been there).
But, with a little understanding of different weightlifting splits and the impact of yoga on your muscle recovery, it’s a breeze.
Here’s how you can map it out.
The most straightforward way to incorporate yoga is to do it right after your weightlifting session.
This allows you to reap the immediate benefits of yoga, including enhanced muscle recovery and reduced DOMS.
You’d essentially be stretching out those hard-worked muscles while still basking in the afterglow of your lifting session.
But, you’ll likely be tired, so stick with simple yoga poses and go at your own pace.
Yoga on Non-Lifting Days
You can also reserve yoga for your non-lifting days.
This method gives your muscles an active recovery day, where you’re still moving but at a lower intensity.
On these days, you can dive deeper into your yoga practice, exploring more challenging poses or longer sequences.
If we had to opt for our favorite way to combine yoga and lifting weights, this would be it. We would include lots of yoga poses that work on flexibility and mobility… helping to use these sessions to really aid recovery and improve joint range of motion.
Different Weightlifting Splits
The ideal scheduling can also depend on your weightlifting splits (i.e., how you train different muscle groups within a week), such as Push/Pull/Legs (PPL), Upper/Lower, or Full Body workouts (check out our guide on PPL Vs Arnold Split).
Here are 3 examples of how your weightlifting split might impact when you should do yoga.
Push/Pull/Legs (PPL) – This popular split often involves training six days a week (by repeating the sequence twice), focusing on push exercises (chest, shoulders, and triceps), pull exercises (back and biceps), and legs/core on separate days.
Given the frequency, a shorter, more restorative yoga session after each workout would work best.
If you only repeat the PPL sequence once, you have 4 rest days in the week… which means you could do yoga on separate days.
Upper/Lower Split – This is often seen as a four-day-a-week training routine (repeated twice) that allows more rest days.
You could do a longer, more intensive yoga session on your rest days, focusing on overall body flexibility and balance.
If you only do this split once a week, you’ve got 5 days spare to do yoga… which means you could follow quite advanced yoga routines and still have time to recover.
Full Body Workouts – If you prefer full-body weightlifting once, twice, three or four times a week, a blend of post-workout yoga and yoga on rest days could be an ideal option.
If you’re more of a yogi than a gym person, you might prefer this option as it means you could just do one day a week lifting weights, and then do yoga on other days.
How to Combine Yoga and Lifting Weights
Benefits of Yoga and Lifting Weights in a Fitness Routine
Choosing between yoga and weightlifting is like picking between coffee and tea, both come with their own unique characteristics and benefits.
But guess what? You don’t have to choose!
Combining yoga and weightlifting in your fitness helps to create a more complete and well-rounded routine… so we think doing both is a great option for most people.
Comprehensive Strength and Flexibility
Lifting weights is fantastic for building muscle strength, power, and endurance.
On the other hand, yoga enhances flexibility and balance.
The fusion of these two results in a fitness routine that not only strengthens your muscles but also keeps them limber and agile… it basically means you can enjoy better movement and feel more empowered by your body in every sense.
Weightlifting can sometimes put a lot of strain on your muscles and joints so incorporating yoga into your routine serves as a counterbalance.
The stretching and lengthening yoga poses help alleviate muscle tension and improve joint mobility, significantly reducing the risk of injuries.
When we’ve created guides on the best hip mobility exercises, for example, many of these stretches and poses are commonplace in yoga routines.
Yoga isn’t just about flexing your body; it’s also about flexing your mind.
The mindfulness and meditation aspects of yoga can help reduce stress, improve focus, and promote a sense of inner peace.
Coupled with the endorphin boost from weightlifting, this duo can significantly enhance your overall mental wellbeing.
Better Posture and Body Awareness
Weightlifting builds core strength, which is key for maintaining good posture and yoga complements this by heightening body awareness, helping you to maintain that posture in everyday life.
Together, they’re like a super duo that helps you stand taller, sit straighter, and move with more grace and confidence.
Should You Ever Do Yoga Before Lifting Weights?
Doing some yoga poses/stretches before weightlifting can serve as an excellent warm-up… if you do it right.
Yoga can get your heart rate up, warm your muscles, and improve range of motion, which may help you perform better during your weightlifting session (especially if you aren’t lifting very heavy weights and it’s more of a HIIT workout).
But, instead of diving into a full-blown yoga class, you’d be better off treating this pre-workout yoga like a dynamic stretch routine.
Try and opt for yoga pose variations that include dynamic movements and avoid holding any static poses for a long duration.
Here are a few yoga poses that can serve as great warm-up exercises:
- Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): This pose gives a great stretch to the entire body, and particularly helps loosen up the hamstrings and calves. Add in some bear squats to make this more dynamic too.
- Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I): This pose is excellent for opening up the hips, a crucial area for weightlifters, while also activating your core and leg muscles. This can basically turn into dynamic lunges.
- Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar): This series of poses is like a mini cardio workout that helps increase heart rate and warms up all the major muscle groups in the body.
- Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana): This pose helps loosen up your spine, ensuring better mobility and reducing the risk of back injury during weightlifting.
This isn’t the time for deep stretches or advanced yoga poses.
It’s about gently waking up your body, like a cat stretching after a nap.
So keep your yoga warm-up light and refreshing, saving the deeper stretches for your post-workout yoga session.
Using a Weightlifting App
Things to Consider
As we wrap up this yoga and weightlifting conundrum, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Your Fitness Goals – If your primary goal is building muscle and strength, it’s best to focus on weightlifting and use yoga as a complementary recovery tool. In contrast, if flexibility, balance, and mental well-being are your priorities, let yoga take the driver’s seat.
Your Body’s Response – Listen to your body. Some may find yoga before weightlifting beneficial, while others may prefer it afterward. There’s no harm in experimenting to find what feels right for you.
Qualified Guidance – Especially if you’re a beginner, it’s important to seek guidance from a certified trainer or yoga instructor. They can ensure your form and routine are safe and effective.
In the quest to find the optimal time for yoga in your weightlifting routine, most experts suggest doing yoga post-lifting.
This helps maintain muscle strength for lifting, aids recovery, and enhances mental calmness.
But, specific yoga poses that are dynamic in nature or held for short periods could be used within a warm-up before weightlifting.