The Top 3 Yoga Poses to Get Stronger, According to Experts

Health & Wellness

Can yoga be part of your strength training routine? Find out here.

Last updated: May 13, 2022
6 min read
The Top 3 Yoga Poses To Get Stronger, According to Experts

Yoga is often touted for several benefits, including flexibility, relaxation and greater range of motion. While the practice can provide all of these, it may also be a good addition to a strength training routine.

That's because yoga can protect your joints, improve focus and boost endurance according to the International Sports Sciences Association, which notes that even with just bodyweight, yoga practitioners have been shown to increase strength in all major muscle groups including core, legs and upper body. One study in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that significant muscular strength and endurance can be increased in about 12 weeks.

While a power yoga or vinyasa flow yoga practice can especially help increase your overall body strength (primarily upper body muscles), there are several isolated poses that can target specific muscle groups as well. If you focus on doing some of these strength-style poses a few times a week as part of your fitness mix, it's possible you could see results over a few months.

Here are just a few yoga poses to consider, along with tips to make the practice a major muscle builder.

  1. 1.Warrior II

    The Top 3 Yoga Poses To Get Stronger, According to Experts

    If you're new to yoga or haven't done a sequence in a while, choosing some whole-body strength poses can be helpful, says Benedicte Gadron, RYT, a registered yoga instructor at Hilton Head Health. One of the best is Warrior II, she says, since it can loosen the upper body while firing up the lower body. Here's how to do it:

    • Step your right foot back and turn the foot so it's parallel to the back of the mat or slightly turned in. Your left foot will be facing forwards. Your left leg should be straight.

    • Bend your front knee so your thigh is parallel to the floor and your front shin is perpendicular to the floor, while keeping your back straight. Your head should be directly over your tailbone.

    • Extend your left arm out and over your left leg, and extend your right arm directly behind you. Both arms should be straight and parallel to the floor. Gaze out over your left arm.

    • Make sure your torso is straight, rather than leaning forwards towards the outstretched arm. Your hips should be in line with your torso.
  2. 2.Plank to Updog

    The Top 3 Yoga Poses To Get Stronger, According to Experts

    Technically this is two poses, but it's in the transition between them that you'll feel a juicy shift in muscular engagement.

    • Start with a plank pose, which is held at the top of a push-up with the core engaged and body in a straight line.

    • Slowly bend your elbows and keep your arms as close to the side of your body as possible, lowering without dropping your hips or collapsing your shoulders.

    • When you get about 13 centimetres from the floor, pause and flip your feet so the top of your feet are on the ground.

    • Sweep the shoulders back and down and bring the chest forwards as you straighten your arms. Your thighs will be off the floor and your back will be slightly arched.

    Don't miss 5 Simple Ways to Create an At-Home Yoga Studio!

  3. 3.Crescent Lunge

    The Top 3 Yoga Poses To Get Stronger, According to Experts

    Lunges are key for lower body strength and, in this pose, you raise your arms as well, which means you can use upper body muscles like lats, traps and deltoids. For an extra strength boost, you can hold a dumb-bell in each hand while in your lunge, or just focus on isometric contraction. For instance, act as though you're trying to hold up the ceiling without shrugging your shoulders up to your ears and that will turn on your upper body muscles.

    • Take a big step backwards with your left foot to start in a staggered stance with your feet almost mat length apart. That means you're not lining up your feet as if you're on a tightrope but instead keeping your feet hip distance apart.

    • Bend your front knee and keep your back leg straight and your heel lifted off the floor. Try to bend your front leg so your thigh is parallel to the floor. Square your hips towards the front.

    • Extend your arms towards the ceiling on either side of your head and stretch up as you also press into the mat and feel the stretch in your hips.

Fire It Up

These poses, such as Warrior II, plank to updog and crescent lunge, can engage numerous muscles on their own, but to make them even more effective, here are some extra strategies:

  • Hold for at least 30 seconds or 5 full breaths: although it's satisfying to quickly power through a series of poses, holding a pose can be even more challenging, says Gadron. When you feel like changing position, that's when it starts to get more interesting, she suggests. "When you hold a pose, you have time to actually feel, to adjust and readjust", she says. "That not only builds strength, but also stamina, and it teaches you to stabilise the mind and body".

  • Transition quickly: getting into a new pose faster and holding that next pose for longer can be helpful for getting more poses into one session. "Doing more poses can help you work more areas of the body", says Gadron. "Going through with [a] short time in between trains the body to be fast, which develops a different aspect of strength".

  • Feel your breath: you can hold poses for longer if you learn to stay mindful of your breathing, adds Gadron. This type of breath training boosts that ability for other types of exercise as well. For example, a 2021 study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that breath work can improve endurance exercise by reducing fatigue. With slower, deeper breaths, yoga can also maximise oxygen intake to the muscles, says Jessica Schatz, RYT and Pilates instructor.

Most of all, keep going. Being consistent and incorporating yoga into your weekly fitness blend can do more than just build muscles, Schatz says.

"There's ample research showing that regular yoga practice can yield benefits like lower stress, better immunity and deeper sleep", she says. "All of these [benefits] can lead to better exercise performance, including strength, and just better daily function overall".

Be sure to download the Nike Training Club App for more tips on how your yoga practice can increase your strength.

Words by Elizabeth Millard

The Top 3 Yoga Poses To Get Stronger, According to Experts

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