Grab your cheat sheet
Many people think yoga is the antithesis of muscle building - it's rare to see huge weight lifters taking part in a yoga class.
But are they missing out?
Yoga can provide enormous benefits to people who participate in strength training. And if building impressive strength, and a physique to match is high on your hit list, then you might want to stick around while we look at the reasons you should combine yoga with weight training.
What is yoga?
Yoga is more than a workout. It is a spiritual practice that brings your mind and body into harmony.
However, you don't have to be in any way religious or spiritual to take part; the yoga community is very welcoming and deliberately accessible.
While you may have seen some poses that look pretty wild, if not impossible, there are plenty of yoga poses suitable for beginners.
Yoga studios usually offer a variety of classes depending on experience. If you aren’t sure, ask the yogi which class they think would be most suitable.
Why do people do yoga?
The goal of yoga is to feel good! It isn’t about pushing yourself into the pain zone or maxing out until you reach failure.
Yoga is about healing and nourishing your body, easing aches and pains, and making your body work better throughout the day.
It is a relaxing process, and the breathing techniques are as important as the yoga poses. If you love leaving the gym feeling ‘pumped up,’ adjust your expectations for yoga. Instead, prepare to feel a sense of calm after a yoga session. Both weight training and yoga are great for stress relief, they just do it differently.
Yoga Practice and Improved Flexibility
If you undertake regular strength training sessions, then one of the biggest benefits of yoga is the extra flexibility and range of movement (ROM).
Do you ever feel like your squats could be better if you weren’t so tight?
Are you increasing the weight and finding it harder to get low enough for a good rep?
Improving your flexibility is really important here, and you will see results much faster if you focus on improving your range of motion instead of simply focusing on ‘how much can I lift today?’
Yoga is a full-body practice and encourages you to stretch for a longer period of time than you would do as an end-of-workout add-on. Incorporating yoga into your weekly workout plan will take you through movements that stretch muscles that often get ignored. It is one of the best ways to see continuous improvements in your range of motion.
Yoga teaches you measured breathing, and a good yoga teacher will explain when you should be breathing out and when you should be breathing in.
This translates into better breathing techniques during your strength training - get your breathing right, and it could add a few kilos onto your one rep max!
Minimizing the Risks of Injury
Improved range of motion, and better and strong deep inner core muscles, are all the result of consistent yoga practice. This will ensure you go about your strength training with improved form and joint resilience, reducing your risk of injury.
While we love strength training, it is pretty tough on our muscles and joints. And we need to give ourselves adequate rest time to recover after a strength training session.
What if there was a way we could speed up that recovery process?
Yoga stretches our muscles and keeps our joints moving, reducing inflammation and kickstarting the processes of repairing the small muscle tears we experience after a workout.
Yoga also encourages us to keep moving on our rest days, known as active rest. This boosts our metabolism, enabling our bodies to burn active calories.
Regular yoga practice can be helpful if you experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it improves bone density, protecting long-term health.
Is yoga a workout or a recovery activity?
Not every yoga practice is the same. Some practices, such as Ashtanga yoga and Bikram Yoga, are more of a stand-alone workout than a recovery aid. Instead, focus on restorative yoga, where the goal is to soothe sore muscles by stretching slowly and meaningfully.
Building Muscle and Muscle Endurance
Both yoga and strength training build muscle mass, just not with quite the same intensity. It also has the added benefit of improving your endurance (anyone who has held a Chaturanga for any length of time can attest to this!)
How should you combine yoga and weight lifting?
Yoga should be incorporated into your weekly workout schedule, but there are ‘optimum’ times to have your practice.
Rest days are perfect for yoga to keep you active in a way that doesn’t damage your joints or muscles. Make sure it is a level of yoga you can manage fairly easily.
You can also do a short yoga session after your strength training. In this case, choose a yoga routine specific to what you have done e.g., yoga for leg day, yoga with upper body stretch - just input what you are looking for into Google or YouTube, and you will find plenty of practices to choose from.
It’s also important to incorporate some protein into your recovery routine, and Crazy Nutritions TRI Protein formula is an excellent post-workout option whether you are lifting weights or undertaking restorative yoga.