‘Yoga for strength training and weightlifting’ sounds like a total oxymoron, but time and time again the exercise disciplines prove to complement each other in surprising ways.
Yoga is much more physical than many suspect, and when combined with weightlifting can lead to numerous conditioning and health benefits.
While lifting focuses on strength, yoga works on your muscle endurance and flexibility.
Once you are more flexible from yoga, you will be more efficient in your lifting. And vice versa, as your general conditioning improves from weightlifting, you will be more efficient in yoga as well meaning the two work in synergy.
Unfortunately, most lifters do not give yoga a second thought.
Most would not even consider it a workout at all.
Well, they are very wrong.
Yoga can be more than just a good stretch and has numerous benefits – physical, mental and emotional.
If you’re interested in using yoga for strength and muscle gains then you’re in for a treat!
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a spiritual discipline that comes from the Hindu faith, and focuses on body postures, breathing control and simple meditation.
Whilst the main benefit of yoga is undoubtedly increased flexibility, there are a wide range of advantages of the exercise — health, strength, relaxation and more.
The Advantages of Yoga for Weightlifters
There are many advantages of yoga for weightlifters, and we’ve looked at them in detail below.
I’m going to throw in a bonus tip before we even get started — yoga can be done anywhere. It’s a great activity for at home, but many people find too many excuses not to do activities like this.
Pick up a yoga mat (available here) if you don’t already have one so that you have no excuses to keep putting off giving it a try.
Lifting weights makes your muscles bigger and stronger, and in turn, it also reduces flexibility and shortens the muscle fibres.
Yoga, in contrast to this, takes this strength and uses it to elongate the muscles.
As you practice yoga, the stretches help develop greater flexibility and mobility, which are necessary for ensuring proper and correct form on every exercise.
While yoga isn’t seen as a strength training, you can actually increase strength with yoga because it draws oxygen into the muscles.
It supports bodyweight strength, which can greatly complement weight training.
By doing the right yoga poses, you can develop a strong foundation and core which is crucial for weightlifting.
Instead of spending your day off sitting around and being lazy, you can use the free time to practice yoga.
Stretching out your limbs and utilising the muscles you wish to strengthen can be a great way to have an active recovery day.
Yoga can help speed up recovery times significantly whilst also providing other strength benefits at the same time.
Reduced Inflammation & DOMS
DOMS – or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – has been a problem for everyone at some point in their fitness life.
This is the painful aches you feel in your muscles a day or two after a workout, and they can be very unpleasant; limiting your range of motion and leading to poor form.
This, in turn, increases your risk of injury and further pain.
Doing yoga can be very beneficial in these situations because the stretches will improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscles, which in turn, reduces inflammation and helps to ease DOMS.
Improved Muscular Endurance
Doing full-body compound movements and explosive lifts at the gym activates your fast-twitch muscles.
This allows you to build your power and speed.
However, power and speed come at the cost of stamina.
Doing yoga – slow movements and holding potentially awkward poses activates the slow-twitch muscles.
This builds endurance.
Building both strength and endurance is the goal of many gym go-ers and this can be a great way to help attain both.
Yoga builds balance in ways that weight training can’t even come close to.
It will help you develop physical balance and train the stabiliser muscles throughout your body that weightlifting movements won’t typically put to use.
Balance and stability are key to athletic performance and injury prevention.
For a good, productive session, you are supposed to lift explosively.
…And for this you need more fast-twitching muscle fibres.
However, with explosive exercises you build up lactic acid within your muscles.
This lactic acid prevents your muscles from working at 100% – and there are many ways to help prevent it or get rid of it.
You will find Olympic athletes jumping into an ice bath after they compete. But that’s not overly practical for you and me…
Instead, you can opt to stretch out your muscles, flush out the lactic acid and be ready to perform to your explosive best again in your next gym session.
Controlling Your Aggression
Lifting heavy sometimes leads to an angry state-of-mind, because of the need to be psyched up before the workout.
Being overly ‘psyched up’ can also be a side effect of preworkouts.
Yoga can help you to develop controlled aggression.
Even when doing challenging poses you should feel relaxed and at peace by the end.
By removing stress and tension, you can live a happier, healthier life both inside and outside of the gym.
Weight training at a high level requires intense concentration and focus on proper form, especially in the moments when you feel like you need to squeeze out one last rep when struggling.
Practising yoga also requires a lot of patience and focus.
Once you master staying focused in one area of exercise, you will be much better equipped to maintain focus in all of them.
Unlike other workouts, yoga offers a sense of being centred; blending the line between body and mind.
Being familiar with how your body feels during certain movements, gives you mindfulness that can help while performing compound movements.
When you’re aware of how your body usually moves and feels, it can help you identify when something is not right – helping to prevent injuries when lifting heavy.
After a week of heavy lifting, it is not unusual to feel stressed out and tired both mentally and physically.
The ultimate benefit of yoga is the complete relaxation that you feel during and after the workout.
With the incorporated elements of breathing, posing and meditation, yoga can help recover sore muscles and add serenity to your week.
If you are already going to the gym to improve your body, then try to incorporate yoga in your regime at least once a week.
You can do it at home with just a simple yoga mat(available here), so there is no need to worry about what other people think of how you look whilst doing it.
Enjoy the faster recovery periods and increased mobility, endurance and overall performance.
Take advantage of using yoga for strength to fully benefit from your gym efforts!