Strength training with yoga: building muscle with the right workouts

Strength training with yoga: building muscle with the right workouts

By the time you've held the downward-facing dog or chair position for 15 breaths for the first time, you'll know that yoga has a lot to do with strength. In this article you will find out how you can use yoga as strength training and thereby build targeted muscles.

Does yoga generally help build muscle?

Although in yoga we “only” practice with our own body weight, you will build up strength quite quickly. Undoubtedly, it is a different strength than that which you train through heavy weight exercises. You won't get any big muscles from it either. Yoga gives you lean, long muscles that you can hardly tell how much strength and stamina they actually have.

Can I build muscles with yoga?

How much muscle you can build through yoga depends primarily on three factors:

  1. How much muscle you already have from other sports. In general, in order to build muscles, the body needs intensive stimuli in the form of strain on our muscles. If you currently have hardly any muscles, you will be able to build muscles fairly quickly through yoga. The more strength and muscles you already have, the more intense (and unusual) the stimuli you give your body have to be in order to build up more muscles.

  2. What style of yoga you practice and how regularly you practice. Some yoga styles are characterized by powerful and dynamic movements, others focus on calm and relaxation (more on this later). Regularity also plays a big role in building muscle. You should stimulate your muscles three to four times a week to achieve a long-term effect.

  3. Your physical and genetic makeup. You have the least influence on this factor, because there are people who build muscle very easily and quickly. They are naturally more inclined to have large, round muscles and need less intense training to develop these. Others have a predisposition to narrow or delicate muscles. Although they build muscle, their stature remains rather slim and petite.

Is yoga suitable for building muscle for me?

Yoga is basically suitable for everyone to build muscle - except perhaps if your goal is to qualify for the Olympic Games in weightlifting. How quickly and to what extent you build muscle through yoga depends on the factors explained above. Especially people who don't enjoy training in the gym or who haven't yet developed good body awareness can build strength in a gentle and conscious way through yoga.

Yoga for men too: Is this trendy sport suitable as a workout?

I've had very athletic men in my yoga classes come up to me after class and tell me that they've never done anything so strenuous in their lives. Yoga is definitely a good workout and can be very intense. The nice thing about it, compared to other sports, is that you learn to put aside the idea of ​​competition and constant comparison with others. Because yoga is about challenging your body in the way that is good for you - and not about emulating a given ideal.

Building muscle through yoga – this is how it works

If you want to build muscles with yoga, you should choose the right yoga style and practice several times a week. But it's not just the frequency that matters, but also the style of yoga.

Not every type of yoga is suitable for developing strength and muscles. Yin yoga and restorative yoga, for example, are very calm styles that involve passive stretching and conscious relaxation. The effort and muscular tension are kept as low as possible.

Which types of yoga are best for building muscle?

All powerful and dynamic styles are ideal for building muscle. These primarily include Vinyasa Flow, Power and Ashtanga Yoga. But it's not just the style that matters, but also the way you practice. Positions that are held for longer periods are more likely to build muscle than quick flows where you smoothly switch between postures. The more repetitions of the same exercise you do in one unit, the greater the training effect on the muscles working.

Which muscles are trained the most with yoga?

Basically, you can train all muscle groups with yoga because the exercises offer a wide variety that addresses every area of ​​the body. With standing postures such as the warrior positions, the chair and the goddess pose you will primarily strengthen your legs. Support positions such as the plank, the four-limbed stick pose and the side plank strengthen your shoulders and core. Strength exercises while lying on your stomach will strengthen your back and arm balances will give you strong arms. Balancing postures primarily strengthen your deep muscles, which are neglected in many sports and everyday movements. Yoga also works on your fascia, which is directly connected to the muscle fibers.

The best asanas for building muscle

The following exercises are particularly suitable for building strength and muscles with yoga:

  • Plank (Phalakasana)


  • four-limbed stick pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)

    Stick holding

  • Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)

    Goddess pose

  • Grasshopper (Salabhasana)


  • Warrior 1, 2, 3 and other variations (Virabhadrasana)

    Warrior 3

  • Lunge (Alanasana)


  • Chair (Utkatasana)


  • Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

    Downward-Facing Dog

  • Shoulder Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

    Shoulder bridge

  • Dolphin (Shishumarasana)


  • L on the wall

    L on the wall

What do I have to pay attention to when performing the asanas?

Start with 5 breaths in one pose. Once you no longer feel any muscle fatigue, increase to 10, 15 or even 20 breaths holding one position.

Even if it becomes strenuous and your muscles begin to tremble, maintain a calm and even flow of breath through your nose.

Be sure to ensure proper alignment and be guided by experienced teachers.

Listen carefully to your body and leave the position immediately if you experience pain.

The plank The plank pose is one of the best exercises to strengthen the entire body and especially the core. How does the “board” exercise work? Stage 1: From a four-footed position, bring your knees a good bit further back. Keep your arms stretched and pull your belly button toward your spine to keep your core stable. Stage 2: Lift your knees off the floor so that your whole body forms a line - from your heels to the crown of your head. The shoulders are vertical over your hands. Is there anything to consider for beginners? Be careful not to sag in the middle of your body, as this can cause back pain. Practice with your knees on the floor until you have developed enough strength and good body awareness to be able to perform the full plank position cleanly. Which muscles does this strengthen? With the board you strengthen your entire body. The muscles of the arms, shoulders, stomach, back, legs and buttocks are involved here to keep you stable. Downward-Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana Hardly any yoga class can do without the downward-facing dog. While it is almost a resting position for advanced practitioners, it requires a lot of strength and effort for beginners. How does the downward dog exercise work? From a four-footed position, stretch one leg backwards with your toes on the floor. Place the other foot next to it - you're in plank pose. From here, bend your legs slightly and push your pelvis far back and up. More important than being able to stretch your legs and bring your heels to the floor is a straight and elongated back. Is there anything to consider for beginners? Make sure to place your hands shoulder-width apart and actively press your fingers into the mat. Place your feet hip-width apart and push your toes firmly down into the ground. Which muscles does this strengthen? In downward dog, you particularly strengthen the muscles of your arms and shoulders. The abdominal and back muscles are also involved.

The supporting effect: combine strength exercises and yoga

Regardless of whether you mainly practice yoga and want to incorporate a few strength exercises every now and then, or whether you do a lot of strength training and integrate yoga exercises into your training - yoga and strength exercises go very well together and can be optimally complemented.

Can I combine strength training and yoga in my everyday life?

If you already practice yoga regularly, make sure to regularly integrate the strength-building exercises described above into your practice in order to specifically build muscles. If you're already doing strength training, take 15-20 minutes at the end to stretch and relax the muscles being worked through yoga exercises.

Does yoga support my muscle building training - and if so, how?

Yoga can support your muscle building training in many ways. Either you use your yoga practice to specifically build muscles by holding strengthening positions for several breaths. Or you can complement your strength training in the gym with yoga exercises to keep the muscles you have built up supple and flexible. Pure strength training makes the body stiff over time - yoga can provide optimal balance here.

Yoga and muscle building: Important tips for healthy training

The most valuable thing you learn through yoga is to listen better to yourself and the way your body feels. This way you can push your limits in a healthy way.

Be sure to warm up with mobilizing and activating movements before doing any demanding strength exercises. In yoga we practice the sun salutation at the beginning of the class. If you are well warmed up, you will significantly reduce the risk of injuring yourself during training.

How do I combine meditation and muscle building?

There are several options here too. If you consciously connect the exercises with your breathing, both your yoga practice and your strength training can be a meditation in motion. Or you can take a few minutes at the beginning and end of your session to consciously feel your body and observe your breathing. This allows you to stay better connected to your body feeling during the exercises and makes it easier to find the right level of intensity for you - because this can be different every day. When you do yoga, you don't build up any big muscles, but you still develop a lot of strength, which strengthens you from the inside and at the same time gives you greater freedom of movement.

Author: Johanna Hector