As different as they are, can weight training and yoga actually work together? They sure can! In fact, there’s a ton to be gained in a holistic sense by combining the two popular disciplines.
The combination of weight lifting and yoga offers even more amazing health benefits than doing just one of them. And on top of that, putting them together in your weekly routine will improve your performance in both. True story!
In a minute, I’ll give you some simple exercises that will work your entire body. You can add them to your yoga routine. And then, we’ll go over some basic yoga positions that you can add to your lifting schedule.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about some of the best reasons to combine weight training and yoga and take a look at the incredible benefits of doing so.
What You Need for Well-Rounded Fitness
A well-rounded fitness program should include five elements, according to the Mayo Clinic. Those include cardio, resistance training, balance moves, stretching, and core exercises. Your best bet is to work all of them into your weekly routine.
That sounds kind of daunting and time-consuming, doesn’t it? Well, it doesn’t have to be. The good news is you can get all five of those elements into your week just by combining weight training and yoga. Yes, seriously.
The Real Key Is Cross-Training
I’ve learned a lot by training clients for more than 20 years, and I can tell you one thing for sure. If you really want to get fit and healthy, the key is cross-training. Cross-training means doing two or more different kinds of workouts in your routine each week.
Do you enjoy lifting weights? Well, then absolutely, you should do that. It’s definitely good for you. But beyond that, you should also do some other things. That might mean rowing, spinning, running, HIIT, boxing, or yes, even yoga.
The beauty of cross-training is that it makes you functionally stronger than doing any one type of workout. That means you will be able to easily perform everyday movements and tasks.
But that’s not all.
It also means you will get fewer injuries.
Why You Should Be Combining Weight Training and Yoga
You may be thinking that yoga and weight training are polar opposites. In many ways, you’d be right about that. Weight training helps you to build bigger, stronger muscle mass. Yoga is much more of a mind-body stretching experience.
They are so different that they work your mind and body in two different ways. Combining them is the ultimate in cross-training.
And here’s the thing.
Yoga and weight training actually complement each other perfectly.
When you lift, you make your muscles tighter and shorter. Because of that, if you don’t do some sort of stretching, you are much more likely to get injured.
That’s where the yoga really picks up the slack.
When you do yoga, you elongate the muscle and strengthen the connective tissue. That allows you to have a fuller range of motion when you weight train.
Having flexibility is certainly a plus when you’re doing yoga. However, if you’re too flexible, that could mean injury. That’s especially a risk if you’re not building muscle.
The truth is, both yoga and weight training make you stronger. But they do it in two different ways.
Two different types of muscle fibers
Yoga will help you build more slow-twitch muscle fibers. That means it will increase your endurance.
Weight training, on the other hand, helps you to build more fast-twitch muscle fibers. That is what you need to do powerful explosive movements.
Combining yoga and weight training really provides you with the best of both worlds.
There’s no question that both weight training and yoga are fantastic workouts in their own right. But combining them gives you something even better. In fact, they each will make the other better for you.
Weight lifting benefits
- Increases physical work capacity
- Increases strength
- Builds fast-twitch muscle fibers
- Improves body image
- Lowers the risk of diabetes and other chronic illnesses
- Improves heart health
- Improves balance
- Increases energy levels
- Aids in burning body fat
- Increases lean muscle
- Increases metabolism
- Controls blood sugar levels
- Decreases depression symptoms
- Increases bone density
- Improved overall health
- Increases flexibility
- Improves concentration and focus
- Decreases chronic pain
- Reduces anxiety and stress
- Aids in weight loss
- Increases mobility
- Improves athletic performance
- Builds slow-twitch muscle fibers
- Improves posture
- Increases metabolism
- Strengthens connective tissue
- Boosts the immune system
- Improves balance
- Protection from injury
- Improves overall health and well-being
How to Combine Weight Training and Yoga
You can combine these two awesome workouts in a few different ways. First, you can simply add a yoga class to your weekly lifting routine.
Try doing yoga on a day you would normally do just a light workout. Or add it to a time typically devoted to active recovery.
Including a yoga workout, one to two times per week will produce significant benefits.
Another way you can combine them is to add 15 minutes of yoga to the end of your weight lifting sessions.
You can also really go for it and change up your workout schedule entirely. Try devoting 12 weeks to yoga. You won’t be sorry.
I’m not saying you should stop lifting altogether. But you could try reducing your strength training to just one or two days per week. On those days, do exercises like overhead lifts, kettlebell front squats, Olympic lifts, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings.
You could even try one of the yoga classes that use weights. By putting on ankle and wrist weights or holding light dumbbells, you can get the benefits of strengthening your muscles. But you’ll be training them differently with much more of a focus on endurance.
Weight Training Exercises You Can Add to Your Yoga Routine This Week
Okay, now it’s time to add some exercises for the yogis out there. The following strength training movements will help to keep your muscles balanced. That means you will have an easier time getting into your yoga postures, and it will make your sessions more productive.
If weight lifting is new to you, be sure to start with light weights. You want to feel some fatigue in the targeted muscles by the end of one set. You will do three sets of each exercise.
1. Chest press
The first weight lifting exercise yogis should add is the chest press. This one builds stronger arms, shoulders, and chest. It will help you with chaturanga. And it will also help you with all of the yoga poses that require static holds and upper body strength, like the crow and dolphin pose.
You should do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps, making sure the weights are heavy enough that you feel burning by the end of each set.
Lunges are one of the best weight lifting exercises to strengthen your lower body. They build muscle, especially in the glutes and quads. Lunges will help you with yoga postures like the chair pose, garland pose, and warrior poses.
Be sure to keep your front knee lined up directly above your ankle. You don’t want your knee to bend forward of your toes.
Do 3 sets of 8 to 15 lunges on each leg per set.
3. Single-leg deadlifts
Another leg exercise that yogis should try is the single-leg deadlift. This one works your hamstrings and lower back. It will also give you a core workout.
Single-leg deadlifts will help you to improve postures like the standing split. It will also significantly improve your balance, helping you with the dancer’s pose and eagle.
While you do this movement, it’s important to keep your core engaged to protect your lower back.
You should do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps on each leg.
4. Back rows
Any yoga pose that has your heart leading your head, like the upward-facing dog, for instance, will be improved by strengthening your arms and back. One weight lifting exercise that does the trick is the seated back row.
As you do this movement, be sure to keep your spine straight and your core engaged.
You should do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Yoga Poses You Can Add to Your Weight Training Routine This Week
Just adding the following four yoga poses to your weight lifting routine will benefit you significantly. Not only will they increase your range of motion, but they will also enhance joint mobility and stability.
These simple postures focus on stretching the major muscles you use in weight lifting, including your shoulders, arms, chest, back, thighs, hip flexors, and calves. And on top of that, they will also increase the mobility of your shoulders, hips, ankles, and thoracic spine.
You can make these basic poses more difficult by holding them for longer.
1. Upward-facing dog
The upward-facing dog is an excellent posture to add to your weight lifting routine. It stretches out the chest, arms, abs, and hip flexors while strengthening the lower back.
As you practice this movement, concentrate on lifting your chest and pressing your shoulders down. You should hold your neck in a neutral position throughout, keeping it a natural extension of your spine.
Repeat this pose at least three times. And hold the position for three to six breath cycles.
2. Downward-facing dog
This is another great pose for weight lifters. It’s good for stretching the calves and hamstrings. And it functionally strengthens the Achilles tendon and improves ankle mobility.
On top of that, it decompresses the spine and opens up the shoulders.
This posture will give you a fuller range of motion when you do deadlifts and shoulder exercises.
Work on getting your body into an upside-down “V” position. And allow your neck and head to relax as they hang between your arms.
Repeat this posture at least three times. And hold each for three to six slow deep breaths.
3. Modified revolved crescent lunge
Weight lifters will also benefit from this one. This posture stretches the back and obliques. It also stretches all of the lower body muscles you use when you do lunges and squats.
I strongly recommend this pose for anyone who sits more than two hours every day.
If you need to modify this position, you can allow your back knee to lower to the mat. Just be sure to keep your core tight.
You should repeat this posture three times on each side. And hold the position for three to six breath cycles.
4. Pyramid pose
The pyramid pose is another great yoga pose for weight lifters. This one will stretch out your back and lower body, including the IT band.
If your leg day consists of squats, lunges, deadlifts, leg extensions, and hamstring curls, then you need this posture.
Many lifters find that this position is difficult because their legs aren’t flexible enough. If that’s the case, then you can use yoga blocks to modify.
Like the other yoga postures we’ve gone over today, you should hold the position for three to six breath cycles and repeat three times on each leg.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, combining weight lifting and yoga will not only improve your overall health and fitness but will also improve your performance and production of each discipline. And perhaps equally important, it will make you feel (and look) better.
You can get the incredible benefits of both by combining them. It’s not hard to put them together either. You can begin by doing the eight exercises that we went over today. I suggest doing them in the order I have them listed, starting with the lifting and finishing with the yoga postures.
You can also try adding any one of the movements to the end of your normal workout.
Most people find that combining the two disciplines makes them both functionally stronger and less stressed out. That means you’ll be less prone to injury. And you’ll be healthier in body and mind.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and pump that iron and get your zen on!
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