Yoga for Strength TrainingPosted on Dec 14th 2009 10:45AM by Myatt Murphy
Ask anyone which activity they think is most effective for toning and strengthening muscles, and most would say weight training. For some reason, yoga always seems to end up last on the exercise to-do list, but ironically, the same graceful stress-releasing moves can be just as effective as lifting weights for building a stronger, shapelier body.
"If all you're looking to do is build muscle, weight training is the more practical approach," says Nicholas DiNubile, MD, author of FrameWork: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones, and Joints. "However, yoga can be just as effective as weights when it comes to developing a stronger, more impressive physique --especially when the two are used together."
Think yoga is way too passive to give your body the boost it's been looking for? Here's why yoga moves just may help your muscles reach your fitness goals even faster!
It's convenient and cheaper
Weight training requires, well, weights. Traveling often for work, holidays or to see friends can put your workouts on hold -- not to mention your fitness results. But with yoga, you have 24-hour access. "Many yoga poses require nothing more than using your own bodyweight as resistance," says DiNubile. "Knowing a few essential poses you can take on the road can allow you to continue to exercise anywhere, no matter where you end up."
It helps to prevent injuries
"When it comes to lifting weights, most people tend to only work the 'mirror muscles' -- meaning, the chest, biceps, abs and thighs," says DiNubile. "This can cause one side of your body to become stronger than the other, creating a muscular imbalance that can pull the spine out of its natural state of alignment." A solid yoga program works all of your muscles -- front and back --while it stretches them at the same time. "This helps improve your body's overall posture, allowing it to function more efficiently with less risk of injury."
It can improve your next workout
Tired of 'feeling the burn' when you exercise? Yoga can actually help your muscles prepare for the next time you exercise. "Lifting weights releases lactic acid, a waste product that sits in your muscles and causes that burning sensation you feel days later," says DiNubile, "Flushing out any excess lactic acid reduces your chances of experiencing any next-day muscle soreness and stiffness that could make your next workout more difficult." Yoga does just that! By simultaneously stretching muscles as it strengthens them, many yoga moves help flow more blood and oxygen into your muscles, washing out excess lactic acid before it becomes a problem later on.
It teaches muscles to work properly
When was the last time you needed to press a weight off your chest, did a pull-up or curled anything up to your shoulders? "A lot of free-weight exercises train your muscles through a single plane of motion," says DiNubile, "Unfortunately, that's not how muscles are used in real life. Yoga, on the other hand, uses poses that teach all of your muscles to work together through a wider variety of angles. The end result: you build functional strength that trains your muscles to work collectively, which can improve your performance in any everyday activity.
It gives muscles more stamina
Most exercises require you to do 6-12 repetitions each set. This only makes your muscles contract for between 24-48 seconds. With yoga, you may hold a pose for as long as five minutes or more. "Maintaining poses for minutes at a time teaches your muscles to contract for longer periods, which can drastically improve your muscular endurance," says DiNubile. That means they'll be less likely to quit on you --both in and out of the gym.
Fitness expert Myatt Murphy is the author of the best-selling books, The Body You Want in the Time You Have, Ultimate Dumbbell Guide and The Men's Health Gym Bible.
NEXT: Yoga Positions for Strength