The Benefits of Strength Training in Addition to Yoga
It’s a popular belief that yogis only practice yoga. While some indeed do, many supplement their yoga practice with other forms of exercise. Yoga is extremely beneficial for your body and mind. However, I strongly believe that yogis can hugely benefit from supplementing their yoga practice with strength training.
You Need Both Flexibility and Strength
While it may seem like yoga and strength training are absolutely incompatible, they can actually greatly complement each other. Flexibility without strength can be dangerous, and so can strength without flexibility.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you should be doing both.
Benefits of Strength Training for Yoga and More
1. It Supports Flexible Joints and Prevents Injury
Hypermobility or overly flexible joints can be either a hereditary condition or can be developed when focusing solely on flexibility. It can cause injury if a person goes too far into a pose and pushes past their limits.
Strength training can build strength and muscle awareness around the joints. This helps find a balance between strength and flexibility in yoga poses, perform more controlled movements, and prevent injury.
2. It Helps Maintain Muscle Mass as We Age
Around the age of 40, our muscle mass begins to decline, especially if one leads a predominantly sedentary lifestyle. Yoga practice alone may not be enough to provide the necessary amount of intensity to prevent that.
Exercise, or more specifically – strength or resistance training, can not only ward it off but also improve age-related muscle loss in as little as two weeks. It helps maintain strength and muscle mass, improve hormone production, metabolize protein better, and maintain neurological health, as well.
3. Strength Training Develops Different Kinds of Strength
We have two different kinds of muscle fibers: slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Developing slow-twitch muscles gives us greater endurance, whereas working on fast-twitch fibers makes us more powerful and faster.
Since in yoga, we hold poses a lot, we exercise primarily our slow-twitch muscles. However, ideally, we should have both endurance and power. This can be balanced out by practicing fast, explosive movements, such as weightlifting and high-intercity exercise.
4. It Boosts Metabolism
Not all kinds of yoga are the same. While some types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Power, and Rocket Yoga, will get your heart rate up, generally, yoga is considered a mild form of exercise.
Most yoga doesn’t speed up your metabolism but can actually lower it. So, if you would like to increase your metabolism, alternate your asana practice with some strength training and high-intensity exercise.
5. It Helps Achieve Balanced and Lean Muscle Tone and Lose Weight
Firstly, burning fat and building lean muscle needs faster metabolism, and as explained above, you need to practice strength or resistance training to achieve that.
Secondly, in yoga, we tend to involve some muscles more than others; for example, the glutes and lower back muscles don’t get worked out nearly as much as the upper body and abdominal muscles. Designing a yoga class that would equally target each and every muscle group can be not only extremely difficult but sometimes even impossible.
However, you can counter that by integrating strength training into your routine. It is a lot easier to isolate and focus on specific muscle groups than it is in yoga.
6. Strength Training Helps You Do Challenging Yoga Poses
Many advanced postures require a fusion of flexibility and strength. Continuous balanced yoga practice will get you there, but additional strength training may get you there a lot faster.
Moreover, as you practice yoga, you may notice that you may reach a plateau and not progress nearly as fast as you did before. This can occur if you practice the same type of exercise and your body adapts to it. So. it’s not uncommon to happen with more experienced yogis.
Strength training can also teach greater body awareness and movement control.
How Can You Build Strength?
Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from.
1. Bodyweight Training
Also known as calisthenics, it’s a great way to start. All you need is, obviously, your body and some space, and you can do bodyweight training virtually anywhere. You can incorporate some equipment, such as a pull-up bar or gymnastics rings, but it’s not necessary.
The downside is that you’ll need to constantly modify your workouts in order to keep building strength and progress.
2. Weight Training
Weights are the fastest and steadiest way of increasing strength. There are plenty of options here, from using light dumbbells in HIIT workouts to lifting heavy weights, using kettlebells or barbells, and even doing Olympic lifting.
You can get access to a great variety of weights if you get a gym membership. You can also purchase weights, but they can be rather expensive, and you will need to upgrade them as you grow stronger.
3. Resistance Band Training
Using resistance bands can add some extra challenge to basic moves, such as squats. Resistance bands are also very affordable and easy to take with you when you travel.
You can also use resistance bands to perform exercises such as deadlifts and curls if you don’t have access to heavier weights.
4. TRX Exercises
TRX is another piece of equipment that you can use to make bodyweight exercises more challenging. It engages the core a lot, does not need much room, and can be easily anchored in places, such as the doorway.
5. HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise performed in intervals. It consists of higher-intensity exercises alternated by lower-intensity exercises or rest periods.
HIIT workouts are short. They range from about 10 to 30 minutes and are great for people who don’t have much time. It will get your heart pumping and is effective for building lean muscle mass and losing weight.
You can add equipment, but it’s not necessary. All you will usually need is some space, perhaps a mat, and a timer.
It’s a branded type of fitness regime that incorporates elements of HIIT, cardio, Olympic lifting, bodyweight training, and more.
Classes last an hour. They start with a very dynamic warm-up. Then you perform skill or strength work, a high-intensity workout of the day (WOD), and finish with a stretching session. CrossFit uses plenty of equipment. Therefore, going to a gym or “box” would be best.
You can also participate in competitions called CrossFit Games.
7. Yoga Drills
Yoga drills are repeatedly practiced with challenging yoga moves. You can incorporate them into your regular yoga practice or add them to your workouts.
They are great for developing the functional strength that you will need for your yoga practice, especially if you work on challenging yoga poses or feel like you’re not progressing. Some examples of yoga drills are:
- toe taps in Crow Pose,
- lowering and raising legs back up in headstand,
- jump throughs and jump backs with blocks,
- handstand hops.
Which Strength Training Approach Is Best for Yoga?
Well, that’s up to you, and what you know you’ll be able to commit to. Weight training may require you to get a gym membership, but if you can’t or don’t want to go to a gym, then perhaps, something like HIIT or resistance band training would suit you better.
Bodyweight training can be a good start if you have never strength trained before. HIIT is a great option if you don’t have much time to work out. However, if you are working on a specific pose, then yoga drills can help you build the foundation you need.
Be open to trying different things and stitching things up. For instance, if you lift or go to a CrossFit box, mix things up with some bodyweight exercises or band workouts during travels.
How Often Should a Yogi Strength Train?
That again depends on you, your goals, and your practice. However, to give you an example, aim for yoga 2-3 times a week and strength training 2-3 times a week.
You can do them on the same days; for instance, have a strength training session and complete it with some gentle yoga, or you can practice them on different days. Experiment and find what works for you.
Do you do strength training in addition to yoga? What and how often do you do?