How to Combine Yoga and Weight Training


How to Combine Yoga and Weight Training

Can weightlifting and yoga work together? You bet they can! There is a lot to be gained by combining the two in a holistic sense. The combination offers superior health benefits to doing just one of them. And on top of that, combining them will improve your performance in both.  You’ll also look better. And who wouldn’t love that?

Why should I combine yoga with weight training? You should do both weight training and yoga because they complement each other perfectly and will make you both stronger and healthier. They each provide different health benefits. And when you put them together, you are much less likely to injure yourself. 

Today we’re going to go through the many benefits of combining these two workouts. Also, we will give you some simple exercises that you can add to your yoga routine and some simple yoga postures that you can add to your lifting schedule.

Elements of a Well-Rounded Fitness Routine

According to the Mayo Clinic, the elements of a well-rounded fitness program include aerobics or cardio, strength training, core work, balance training, and flexibility or stretching. The best thing you can do is to incorporate all five of them into your routine. 

Does that mean that you have to live at the gym and spend hours and hours training every week? Nope. Not if you train smart. Lifting weights will take care of the strength training element. And believe it or not, merely adding yoga to your routine will take care of the other four.

Cross-Training Is the Key

We’ve been training clients for years, and there’s one thing that we know for sure. Cross-training is the key to overall fitness. Cross-training means that you do two or more different types of workouts in your weekly routine.

If you like weight training, then by all means, you should do that. It’s undoubtedly good for you. But you should also add other types of workouts to your schedule–that could mean running, or rowing, or boxing, or yoga.

When you cross-train, you are getting a more well-rounded workout. And the point is that you will be functionally stronger. Not only does that mean that you will be able to perform everyday tasks and movements with ease, but it also means fewer injuries.

So Why Should I Do Both Weight Training and Yoga?

At first glance, you might think that weight training and yoga are polar opposites. In some ways, they are. One of them builds bigger, stronger muscle mass, and the other develops a mind-body-spirit connection.

But because they are so different, they work your body (and mind) in different ways. And as I’ve said, cross-training with varying types of workouts is the key to ultimate fitness.

The truth is that weight training and yoga complement each other perfectly. Weight training makes the muscles shorter and tighter. Without some kind of stretching, you are more prone to injury.

That’s where the yoga comes in. Yoga elongates the muscle and strengthens the connective tissue. That means that you will have a fuller range of motion in your weight training.

Incredibly flexible people tend to do very well with yoga, but if you’re too flexible, you again are prone to injury if you’re not building some muscle.

They both make you stronger–just in different ways. 

  • Yoga builds more slow-twitch muscle fibers. That helps you build endurance. 
  • Weightlifting, on the other hand, builds more fast-twitch muscle fibers. 

Those are what you need for powerful explosive movements. Combining them gives you the best of both worlds.

Weight training and yoga are both great workouts in their own right. But combining them is even greater. They each make the other better for you.

How Do I Combine Weight Training and Yoga

There are different ways that you can do this. First, you can add a yoga class to your weekly weight training schedule. Do yoga on a day that you would typically do a light workout or on a day generally devoted to active recovery. You will see significant benefits if you can add a yoga routine one to two times each week.

Another thing you can do is add 15 minutes of yoga to the end of your weight training sessions. You can start with the seven poses that we go over in this article. Focus on one or two of them each day. Other fancier poses can be added in later.

You can also change up your routine entirely for 12 weeks and focus on yoga. Don’t stop weight training altogether but cut your strength training to just two days a week. On those days, you should do exercises like kettlebell front squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, overhead lifts, and Olympic lifts with variations. In a minute, we will go over seven essential exercises that you can add to your yoga routine.

There are even yoga classes that use weights. You can put on wrist and ankle weights, or you can hold dumbbells. You will still be strengthening your muscles, but you’ll be working them differently, focusing much more on endurance.

Yoga Postures That You Should Add to Your Weight Training Routine Today

If you have been weight training, you will benefit significantly by adding these seven yoga postures to your routine. They will help with range of motion and enhance joint mobility and stability.

We love these simple poses because they focus on stretching all of the major muscles that you use in weight training, including your thighs, calves, chest, back, hip flexors, and shoulders. And they will increase the mobility of your ankles, hips, thoracic spine, and shoulders.

To make the poses harder, you can hold them for longer.

1. Downward-Facing Dog

The downward-facing dog is excellent for stretching your hamstrings and calves. Functionally it improves ankle mobility and strengthens the Achilles tendon. It also opens up your shoulders and decompresses the spine. This posture will increase your range of motion on single-leg deadlifts and shoulder exercises.

This video will help you with the steps to the downward dog.

Focus on getting your body into an upside-down “V” shape. Let your head and neck relax in between your arms.

You should hold this position for 3 to 6 slow deep breaths. And repeat it three times.

2. Upward-Facing Dog

The next pose that you should add to your weight training routine is the upward-facing dog. This pose stretches out your arms, abs, chest, and hip flexors while strengthening your lower back.

This video will show you a series of poses to get into upward dog.

When you’re in the pose, concentrate on pressing your shoulders down away from your ears and lifting your chest. And keep your neck in a natural position as an extension of your spine. You can look up with your eyes, but don’t lift your head.

Hold this pose for 3 to 6 breath cycles and repeat the posture three times.

3. Triangle Pose

The triangle pose opens the hips and stretches your obliques, hamstrings, and back. This pose will help you with side planks, and it will increase your range of motion on leg exercises and hip hinge movements like deadlifts as well as chest exercises. This pose will also help you with kettlebell swings and windmills.

To get the form correct for this pose, watch this video.

When you’re in the triangle pose, you should turn your head and look up toward your top hand. If your hips and hamstrings are too tight to get into the pose, you can use yoga blocks under your bottom hand.

Hold this pose for 3 to 6 breaths and repeat three times.

4. Modified Revolved Crescent Lunge

The modified revolved crescent lunge is another excellent pose that you should add to your weightlifting schedule. This pose stretches the obliques and back. It also stretches your quads and hip flexors, which you use in exercises like lunges and squats. This pose is ideal for anyone who sits more than two hours every day.

This video will take you step-by-step through the pose.

To modify the posture, let your back knee lower to the ground. And keep your core tight.

You will hold this position for 3 to 6 breath cycles and repeat the movement three times on each side.

5. Lizard Pose

The lizard pose will stretch out your entire lower body, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and hips. This pose is excellent to do the day after leg day at the gym.

Watch this video to see the lizard pose.

If you have been weight training your legs, then chances are your muscles are too tight to get into this pose fully. You can modify it by lowering your back knee to the mat. You can also do this pose supported by a couple of yoga blocks. Instead of placing your forearms on the floor, you can rest them on the support blocks.

You should repeat this pose three times on each leg. And hold each position for 3 to 6 breaths.

6. Pyramid Pose

The pyramid pose is another excellent yoga posture to stretch out your lower body, including your IT band. If you have been doing lunges, squats, deadlifts, hamstring curls, and leg extensions in the gym, then you need this pose.

This video will demonstrate how you do this posture.

If you find that your legs aren’t flexible enough to get into this position fully, you can modify it by using yoga blocks under your bottom hand.

Like the other yoga poses that we’ve gone over today, you should repeat this one to three times on each leg and hold each position for 3 to 6 breath cycles.

7. Dancer’s Pose

The most challenging pose that we’re going over today is the dancer’s pose. Not only does this posture stretch out your quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, arms, and shoulders, but it also works on your balance.

If you have trouble with balance, you can hold onto a chair or the wall. The more flexible you are, the higher you will be able to lift your back knee.

Repeat this pose 2 to 3 times on each leg, and hold each one for several exhales, or as long as you can.

This video will help you with getting into this posture.

Weight Training Moves That You Should Add to Your Yoga Routine

If you have been practicing yoga, then you should add these seven strength training exercises to your routine. They will keep your muscles balanced and will make your yoga postures easier and more productive.

If you are new to this kind of workout, you should begin with light weights. You should feel fatigue in the muscle that you’re working by the end of one set. We will be doing three sets of each exercise.

1. Tricep Dips

As the name implies, tricep dips work the back of your arms or your triceps. This exercise is helpful for any pose that requires push-up strength like the upward plank, upward-facing dog, and cobra.

To do tricep dips, you will need blocks, a bench, or a chair, but you won’t use weights. Your body weight serves as the weights on this one. Watch this video to see how to use proper form.

Be careful not to lock your elbows at the top of this movement to protect the joint. You should inhale as you lower your body and exhale as you straighten your arms.

You will do three total sets of this exercise with 8 to 12 reps per set.

2. Bicep Curls

The next exercise that you should add to your routine is bicep curls. Again, just as the name implies, bicep curls work the front of your arms or your biceps and your forearms.  This will help you do poses that require arm strength like tripod headstands and supported headstands. It will also help you with static postures like the side plank. 

This video will take you through the movement.

Don’t go too heavy with this exercise. You should be careful to keep the weights in control. Move slowly and exhale as you curl your arms.

You will do three sets of bicep curls with 8 to 12 reps per set.

3. Lateral Raises

You should add lateral raises to your yoga routine to build strength in your shoulders. That strength is particularly helpful for poses that use upper body strength like handstands, headstands, and downward-facing dog.

Watch this video to see the proper form for this exercise.

You should be careful only to raise the weights to shoulder height. Don’t go any higher than that. And keep the movement slow and controlled. You don’t want to swing the weights or use momentum.

Do three total sets with 8 to 12 reps for each.

4. Chest Press

The chest press builds strong muscles in your chest and arms. This exercise will help you with chaturanga. It will also improve all of the poses that use upper body strength and static holds like dolphin pose and the crow.

This video will walk you through this exercise.

You should use weights heavy enough that you feel burning after 8 to 12 reps. Do a total of three sets.

5. Lunges

Lunges build strength in your quads and glutes, which will help you with postures like the garland pose, chair pose, and the warrior poses.

You can do this exercise with weights or without. This video will show you how to do the movement.

Some key points to think about are that you want to keep your front knee lined up above your ankle. Don’t let your front knee go forward of your toes. Inhale as you lower and then exhale as you straighten your front leg.

Do 8 to 15 lunges on each leg per set for a total of three sets.

6. Single-Leg Deadlifts

Single-leg deadlifts work your hamstrings and your lower back. This exercise will improve poses like the standing split. It will also help you to do balancing postures like the eagle and dancer’s pose.

To do this exercise, you will use a kettlebell or a weight held in one hand. Engage your core to protect your lower back. Then slowly lift one leg behind you as you allow the weight to lower toward the foot you’re standing on. You will feel this in your hamstring of the supporting leg. Exhale as you stand back up and lower your leg.

You should do 8 to 15 reps on each leg per set for a total of 2 to 3 sets.

7. Back Rows

Seated rows build strength in your back and arms. This will help you do any yoga poses where your heart leads your head, like an upward-facing dog, for example.

To do this exercise, have a seat at the low cables station. Using the narrow grip, allow your arms to stretch out in front of you. Sit up tall and engage your core. As you pull the grip in toward the bottom of your rib cage, exhale and squeeze your back. Then inhale as you extend your arms back to the starting position.

You should do 8 to 12 reps per set for a total of three sets.

It All Comes down to This

You can easily put these two workouts together and get all of the benefits of each of them. Or you can focus on adding one of them to your normal routine. You will be healthier in mind and body if you do so.

You’ll be less stressed out, and you will be functionally stronger, which means you’ll be less likely to get an injury. So pump the iron and then get your zen on! 

Namaste.

Dakota Carroll

Yoga have been a part of Dakota's life for 10+ years. Her practice has helped her grow stronger, more flexible and fearless. Dakota encourages her students to be creative and challenge the body. She seeks to inspire every student to feel refreshed, nourished and balanced both on and off the mat.

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