Yoga For Strength And Muscle Building?
When you think of yoga, what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you probably associate its practice with flexibility, balance, peace of mind and maybe even the relief of chronic pains. Well, it does help with all these things, but did you know that it can also promote decent levels of strength and muscle gain? Yes, you read that right. Studies show that certain yoga poses and routines can actually help you get leaner and stronger. But how does it work? Doesn’t conventional wisdom say that lifting weights is the only way to get such results?
Resistance is resistance
Your muscles have no way of telling what kind of resistance you’re using to train them. This means that, for instance, pulling a weight equal to that of your own body on a lat pull-down machine and actually performing pull-ups provide your muscles with virtually the same amount of stimulus to grow and get stronger. The same goes for yoga. As long as the resistance you provide your muscles is enough to trigger positive adaptation, you can expect to see results. The only difference is that unlike traditional weight training, the only yoga training gear you need is a mat.
And the whole thing does not only work in theory. A study conducted by Milind V. Bhutkar, MD; Pratima M. Bhutkar, MSc; Govind B. Taware, MD; and Anil D. Surdi, MD; showed that the regular practice of sun salutation results in strength gains, improved endurance and even fat loss. Needless to say, any other yoga pose or routine that makes use of similar movements or puts the body under the same type of stress should work just as well. This means that you can pick pretty much whatever movements work best for you at any given point in time. So, you can, for instance, keep building muscle while pregnant without putting yourself and your baby in danger.
Isometric contractions build strength
First things first: what are isometric contractions? Simply put, they are the type of muscular contraction that doesn’t involve any changes in muscular length. They are what happens when, for instance, you try to push a building. Your muscles would of course contract, but since there’s no way you can actually move the structure, their length would stay the same throughout the duration of the effort—which is pretty much also what happens when you hold yoga poses for extended periods of time, making its practice a great way to improve your isometric strength. Just be sure to vary the poses you do because isometric exercises only improve your strength at the specific angles at which the tension is held.
But don’t forget to progress
Keep in mind that your body is really good at adapting to whatever challenges you throw at it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s traditional resistance training or yoga. If you do something regularly for long enough, your body will inevitably stop treating it as enough of a stimulus to build muscle and strength. This is why it’s important to always look for ways to constantly make your yoga routine more challenging. It’s the only way you’ll be able to keep the results coming.