When most people think of yoga, they think of stretching out in a warm, dark room with an instructor speaking in a low, soft voice. They don’t think of lifting weights in a loud weight room surrounded by people grunting to lift heavy weights. However, depending on the type of class you’re taking, yoga can certainly be considered strength training. Here’s why:
Cheap and convenient. While yoga might not provide the traditional muscle overload (intensity of exercise high enough above normal adaptation for physiological adaptation to occur), you can still make great gains in strength because yoga, especially power yoga, uses your own body weight to perform the movements. This also makes yoga a more convenient and cheaper workout than lifting. You can do it anywhere!
Prevents Injuries. Weight lifting mostly works the “mirror muscles”; your chest, bi’s, abs and thighs. This can create a muscular imbalance that can pull the spine out of alignment. Yoga works both the front and back muscles and helps improve your body’s posture. Yoga helps your body function easier with less risk of injury.
Trains Your Muscles For Real Life. How often do you do a bicep curl to pick something up off your desk? Do you ever put your dishes away by performing an overhead press? Probably not. Most strength training moves do not replicate the way we use our muscles in real life. Yoga uses a wide variety of poses performed at all different angles building functional strength that can improve your performance in your real life activities.
Increased Stamina. The majority of strength training programs have you doing 8-12 reps per set. This means your muscles only contract and work for about 48-72 seconds. In yoga, depending on the practice, you might hold a pose for up to five minutes. Contracting your muscles for these long periods of time improve your stamina and endurance.
For those of you who can’t stand to put down your weights, something like Iron Yoga is a great option. Iron Yoga combines yoga and strength training to work the arms, shoulders, back, and core. I tried this YouTube video and it kicked my butt!
While yoga can certainly be considered a form of strength training, if you’re looking to grow your muscles and add bulk (or get jacked like the kids like to say), traditional weight lifting is your best bet. To gain mass you have to have that traditional muscle overload I spoke about above. Mix up your routine with weights and yoga to keep your body guessing and your workouts fun.