It’s hard to deny the benefits that strength training offers for fitness and health. When you work your body against resistance, you build stronger muscles and increase muscle size. That matters! Building more muscle helps counter the loss of muscle mass and strength that comes with aging.
Research also shows that strength training enhances insulin sensitivity, how cells handle glucose, and improves metabolic health. One study found that strength training increased insulin sensitivity in older type 2 diabetics even when the subjects didn’t lose weight or change what they ate. Plus having more muscle on your frame gives your resting metabolic rate a subtle boost and makes it easier to maintain a healthy body weight.
You might think that if you are diligently working your muscles through strength training that you don’t need yoga and strength training is enough. Don’t be too sure! Yoga has health and fitness benefits too, including ones that you won’t get from working with weights alone. Plus, it’s a perfect complement to more strenuous strength-training workouts. Let’s look at some of the added benefits yoga offers if you strength train and five reasons you should include it in your routine.
Yoga Improves Flexibility
Poor muscle flexibility and mobility can limit your performance when you strength train. For example, if you don’t have good flexibility and mobility, you may have trouble doing a deep squat. Plus, being more flexible helps your muscles work better as a unit and that can lead to better performance when you lift. What kind of yoga is best? Studies show that Hatha yoga improves muscle flexibility. So, adding this type of yoga to your routine may improve your performance when you weight train or do bodyweight exercises.
Greater Mental Focus
No matter what type of workout you do, mental focus matters. Strength training is more than moving a weight through space and completing a certain number of repetitions. How you perform each repetition and the form you use impacts the gains you make. With the right mindset, you’re better able to focus on the muscles you’re working on rather than letting your mind wander. Some studies even show that people can develop modest improvements in strength through mental weight training, envisioning working the muscle without actually moving it. The right mindset also helps eliminate distractions and that can help you avoid injury too.
Mindset and focus are two keys to getting better results from strength training. The power of yoga is that it involves movement and it teaches you how to focus your mind and shift your focus away from distracting elements in your environment. Then, you can apply the benefits you gain from yoga to strength training and boost the effectiveness of your strength-training workouts.
One of the biggest benefits of yoga is it calms the mind and body, helps cultivate inner peace, and relieves stress. Studies show yoga affects key pathways in the brain, including the link between the hypothalamus and pituitary in the brain and the adrenal glands. This connection is called the HPA axis and it regulates a variety of hormones and chemicals that affect mental and physical health. Through the HPA, yoga lowers stress hormones, including norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol. Also, when cortisol stays high, it can lead to muscle loss, working against your efforts to build strength and muscle size. Plus, yoga will teach how to control your breath. Proper breathing helps reign in stress and can also improve your performance when you train with weights.
Yoga Reduces Inflammation
Low-grade inflammation is damaging to health in many ways. It injures the inner walls of blood vessels and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Plus, it fuels other health problems, like insulin resistance. According to a study discussed on Harvard Health, three months of yoga reduced harmful markers of inflammation and increased levels of anti-inflammatory chemicals in the bloodstream.
Another study of breast cancer survivors found that those who engaged in 12 weeks of yoga experienced a reduction in inflammatory markers and improvements in their energy level. Everyone should be concerned about inflammation, whether they strength train or not. Yoga won’t take the place of a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet and sound sleep at night, but it could give you added protection against damaging inflammation.
Yoga Enhances Recovery
Your body needs recovery between strength training sessions. Conventional wisdom says we shouldn’t strength train the same muscles without taking at least a 48-hour rest. This doesn’t mean you can’t do something relaxing in between strength training sessions. Yoga is an excellent recovery workout. It increases blood flow to the muscles you strength trained and helps lengthen them.
You can even do yoga on a rest day when you need a form of movement that won’t stress your body but helps you relax and recover. But don’t be aggressive with your rest day workouts. A recovery workout is one where you don’t push yourself more than 30% of your maximal effort. Therefore, restorative yoga is a better option. Also, listen to your body, and don’t try to over challenge yourself on a rest day.
The Bottom Line
Even if you strength train, you’ll get additional benefits by adding yoga to your routine. Yoga isn’t as effective for building muscle strength as higher resistance strength training since you’re limited to using your bodyweight but it can improve how you train by enhancing mental focus, improving mindset, and boosting muscle flexibility. Plus, it’s an excellent recovery workout after a tough strength training session. So keep strength training but make yoga part of your routine too. You’ll get benefits that will translate over to other types of training, including strength training. Plus, the practice of yoga has mental and physical health benefits too. Make it part of your “ get healthy and get fitter” routine.
- com. “Resistance Training Benefits Type 2 Diabetics”
- Petric et al., Altern Integ Med 2014, 3:2. DOI: 10.4172/2327-5162.1000160.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Yoga could slow the harmful effects of stress and inflammation”
- 2014 May;43:20-9. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.01.019. Epub 2014 Jan 30.
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