To create your ultimate body and unlock your yoga practice, it’s time to start lifting weights. When it comes to yoga for strength, yoga and weight lifting are a match made in heaven. They are the ultimate compliments for improved improve body composition, increased strength and flexibility and decreased pain.
I have been lifting weights since I was a teen. But, as I got more into yoga, I began to move away from weight training. I simply couldn’t figure out a way to combine the two that made sense. A few years ago however, I began to put the puzzle together.
What I eventually formulated is the topic of today’s blog: how to combine yoga and weight training for maximum results and strength.
Most yogis know nothing about weight training. Many actually think it is bad for them and their practice.
They think it goes against what yoga is all about. Main stream yoga thought specifically, has a tendency to look down upon exercise outside of yoga. There is an underlying belief that yogis can only practice yoga.
This is quite naive and limiting. Not only in thought but also in terms of physical growth.
A consistent yoga practice will make you physically and mentally strong while increasing flexibility and focus. It can even heal the body from years of tension and pain. Adding a weight lifting program will not only increase these benefits, but can actually take your yoga practice to a new level.
Combine yoga and weight training for strength:
Firstly, the type of weight training I am referring to is know as 5×5 training (that’s 5 sets of 5 reps).
5×5 training requires maximum effort in the gym, no more than 2-3 times per week. Without going to far into it, 5×5 training focuses on building power and strength by loading the body with heavy-compound movements, such as bench press, squats, dead-lifts, barbell rows, military presses and dips.
The key is to engage large muscles groups, to efficiently build the most strength possible. Limiting the amount of reps to only five won’t break down the muscles to complete fatigue, like traditional workouts will.
Traditional single-body part workouts (like doing 4-5 different chest exercises in one session) leave the specific body part sore for days, rendering it almost useless. This is how lifting weights gets in the way of a yoga practice, making you inflexible and tight.
Imagine trying to hold down-dog after training your arms and shoulders for an hour the day before! No thanks, yoga is already hard enough.
Here’s a sample weight training and yoga for strength week:
Dynamic warm-ups and mobility work
Bench press 185lbs 5×5
Squats 225lbs 5×5
Barbell rows 135lbs 5×5
10-15 minutes of HIIT on elliptical machine
60-90 minute Vinyasa yoga
Dynamic warm-ups and mobility work
Dead-lifts 225lbs 5×5
Pull downs 100lbs 5×5
Military press 135lbs 5×5
10-15 minute of HIIT of 40 yard sprints
60-90 minute Vinyasa yoga class (use for cardio-vascular health and calorie burn)
Repeat Monday’s workout. Next Monday, repeat Wednesday’s workout. Alternate each week.
5×5 lifting is efficient and effective. In one hour, the whole body can be pushed and engaged. This requires the nervous system to go into overdrive to accommodate the heavy loads placed on the body. The results are: muscle growth, increased strength, high caloric usage and a positive release of hormones in the body (this is especially beneficial for men due to the high amounts of testosterone released).
I don’t look at weight lifting as something separate from my yoga practice, I look at it as part of my yoga practice.
Many yogis see weight lifting as something that takes away from their practice. On the flip-side, many weight-lifters think yoga is “only for women”.
They do not need to be separate- die hard yogis can be avid weightlifters and muscle bound weight-lifters can be peaceful warriors too.
5×5 training has dramatically improved my yoga practice over the past five years. I am able to achieve yoga poses that people half my size cannot- this is because I lift weights.
Learning to utilize 5×5 training has enhanced my range of motion, balance, power, mood and body composition.
Lifting heavy and practicing yoga (together) has made me stronger and more flexible than I’ve ever been, even in my mid 30s.
5×5 training can make your legs so strong that Warrior 2 pose becomes quite simple and arm balances become resting poses. I’ve seen it dramatically improve the balance and strength of my clients in poses like Tree, Warrior 3 and Plank. The power that 5×5 training creates directly translates into better, more balanced and stronger poses, it’s actually quite impressive to witness.
Heavy weight training for advanced yogis is also great because it challenges them beyond what they are used to. After a while, yoga poses become much easier. The advanced practitioner can begin to forget how physically challenging yoga can be. Adding 5×5 will challenge them, especially on the day directly following training. As a result, the challenge of holding even a beginner pose such as Warrior 1 gets drastically turned up, requiring deeper breath work and focus to complete the pose with steadiness and ease.
I was reminded of this in class today when I was the first one to come out of a pose in a class of intermediate students. My legs were trembling, it was a humbling and my ego was bruised. These are the great benefits of a strong yoga practice, which in essence, I received from lifting weights.
Weight training and practicing yoga together has the ability to create the ultimate body and mind; strong, steady, flexible, powerful, balanced and tension free.
The combination is not only effective but highly efficient, requiring only 2-3 days a week in the gym and 2-3 days a week of yoga practice. It also creates the wonderful bi-product of an external body that is strong, lean and defined.
After switching your exercise and wellness plan to include yoga and lifting weights, your biggest problem will become explaining to others that “Yes, I do lift weights and practice yoga.” You’ll have to explain that this is why you look and feel so different on the inside and out.
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