There’s nothing like working out on a good day — whether it be lifting weights or running on a treadmill. But sometimes those days just don’t happen. When they don’t, we have to find other ways to exercise our bodies. That’s where yoga comes in. Through Yoga, you can take care of your Cavalry Fitness!
Even if you’ve never tried yoga before, chances are you’ll enjoy its benefits at least once during your workout. And even if you already know how to practice basic poses, there are many variations and modifications that will keep your body engaged and challenged.
This article will give you ideas on how to incorporate yoga into your strength training workouts.
Strength Train While You Stretch
One thing yoga can do well is strengthen muscles. Combined with a healthy diet, it is a great way to take your strength training to the next level. One reason why this works so well is because when you stretch, you’re doing work against gravity. The more weight you lose through stretching, the less muscle mass you need to build back. This goes hand in hand with building muscle fast with weight training, which uses weights rather than your own bodyweight as resistance.
There are several different types of yoga and you should do some research as to which is right for you. The Yoga Science Foundation offers an overview of the different types to help you get started.
The idea behind strength training is to use different parts of the body to lift different kinds of weight. For example, you may want to focus on pushing motions with your arms, such as push-ups. Or maybe you’d like to concentrate on pulling motions, such as pull-ups. Either way, you can use yoga to improve these movements by focusing on specific areas.
For instance, let’s say you’re starting to work on your core (your abs, lower back, hips) and want to develop strength in them. Instead of doing sit-ups from your bed, try practicing inverted rows instead. Not only does it require using your core muscles, but also requires you to balance properly.
To perform an inverted row, lie down on the floor, supporting yourself on your elbows. Clasp your hands together, palms facing inward. Then bring both knees toward your chest until your torso is parallel to the ground. Keep your head resting comfortably on your upper spine and eyes closed throughout the entire movement.
Once you reach the end of the movement, hold your pose for one second before slowly lowering yourself back onto the mat. Do five repetitions per set, and try to increase the number every week. Once you feel comfortable performing three sets of inverted rows, try incorporating side bends into the same workout. These are done by lying on your side on the floor with your elbow at 90 degrees and your forearm pointing straight ahead. Bend your torso forward slightly, making certain to support your weight with your forearms and toes.
Make It A Full-body Movement
When most people think about strength training, their minds drift over to bulky barbells and weight machines. However, yoga provides another option for strengthening your whole body. Even though it doesn’t involve lifting heavy weights, it still builds muscle and improves flexibility and coordination. What’s more, yoga is generally safer and better for your joints than traditional weightlifting.
If you haven’t taken a class yet, start with a beginner’s yoga session. There are plenty of free videos online that guide you through each move. Once you’ve gotten used to the positions, you can begin modifying them to fit your needs.
Here are some suggestions for what types of yoga moves you should include in your strength training program:
Backward bending poses – Backbends, twists, and hip openers all build strength in the low back region. Try holding a medicine ball between your feet while twisting backward, then putting the ball back under your foot. Repeat this exercise 10 times per leg.
Lunges – Lunging exercises target the legs, ankles, and feet. They also burn calories and tone muscles. To go for lunges, stand erect and place your right foot forward approximately 2 feet away. Step forward with your left foot until your thigh forms a 45-degree angle. Bring your right knee forward until your shin makes a 90-degree angle. Return to your original position and repeat 20 times on each leg.
Crunches – Sit upright on the floor, placing your hands behind your ears. Lift your shoulders off the ground and hold for a count of four. Lower your shoulders back down to the mat. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together and avoid arching your back.
Side bends – Lie on your side and bend your torso forward. Place your arm across your chest and twist your waist. Hold for one breath and return to your starting position. Repeat 15 times.
You can also add strength training workouts to your regular yoga sessions. For example, you could take a break from your usual sun salutations and bridge pose to perform a series of squats and press-ups. Just remember to hydrate after your workout, especially since yoga can raise your heart rate.
Switching Things Around
It might seem counter intuitive to switch things around when you’re trying to strengthen something, but switching your workout around often helps you challenge yourself. Instead of following a standard weightlifting sequence, change it up to put emphasis on different muscle groups.
Let’s assume you’re currently working out your biceps. After doing curls, immediately follow that with tricep extensions. Tricep extensions are similar to curls except for the fact that you extend your fingers upward, instead of downward. They provide additional stimulation to your triceps.
Or try alternating dumbbell presses with overhead tricep extensions. Overhead tricep extensions are done exactly as overhead presses are, except that you extend your arms above your head. In addition to targeting your triceps, this exercise strengthens your pectoralis major muscles (the pecs).
Adding Resistance Bands
Resistance bands allow you to create additional tension in various muscle groups. Whether you prefer banded varieties or non-banded ones, here are a few tips on how to use them effectively:
Band seated deadlifts – Seated deadlifts are performed by standing with your legs apart, grasping a band between your feet. Now squat down and grasp the band with your arms extended behind you. Allow your pelvis to tilt forward, and rise up again. Don’t round your back!
Band front squats – Front squats are a variation of conventional squats. Stand sideways to a bench and grip a band between your feet. Squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground, then rise back up.
Band bent-leg deadlifts – As mentioned earlier, deadlifts train your lower back and hamstrings. Here, you would grip a band between your feet and squat down. Next, lean forward until your upper torso is parallel to the ground. Rise back up.
Bent-over rows – Like deadlifts, bent-over rows strengthen your lower back. Grab a band between your feet and lean forward until your torso is parallel to the ground. Row the weight up towards your chin.
Wide-grip lat pulls – Lat pulldowns primarily work your lats (back of your shoulders), but they also engage your traps (underneath part of your cheeks) and rear deltoids. Grip a band wider than your shoulders and pull it toward your face.
These are only a handful of banded exercises. Be creative, and try experimenting with different grips on various exercises.
Keep The Flow Going
After you’ve mastered standard yoga poses, you may want to progress to intermediate moves. If you aren’t ready to advance that far yet, don’t worry. Remember, combining yoga along with a healthy morning start will go a long way with improving your strength training. There are still loads of poses and stretches available for you to learn.
Finally, if you really want to stick with yoga, there are tons of apps and websites that offer classes. There’s no shortage of options for staying active and improving your overall health.
What types of yoga routines do you like? Have you ever incorporated them into your strength training workouts? Share your thoughts below!