Most of you will know that gains aren’t achieved solely from hitting the weights. When we exercise, a balance needs to be struck for optimal fitness – mixing diet, cardio and lifestyle in with the lifting sessions. However, there is another form of exercise that you should consider for your wellbeing: yoga.
Originating from ancient India, yoga is as much about exercising the mind as the body, but that doesn’t mean its physical benefits should be dismissed.
In fact, yoga can effectively be used to complement a weight lifting routine in the same vein as traditional cardio, as it focuses on and strengthens different skeletal muscle fibres entirely.
If your eyes glazed over at the mention of skeletal muscle fibres, here’s a rough breakdown of how they work: When lifting weights your body activates fast-twitch muscle fibres, which tolerate high forms of endurance in quick bursts. And when practicing yoga and other forms of cardio, the body activates slow-twitch fibres, allowing for feats of endurance over a longer period.
Focusing solely on one of the fibre groups will contribute towards building a specific body type. This is why it’s hard to picture Arnie running a marathon in his prime, just as it’s difficult to imagine Usain Bolt deadlifting 300 kilos.
Those wishing to bulk up should focus on the fast-twitch, but that doesn’t mean working with slow-twitch muscles should be discounted. Frequently using slow-twitch fibres can help improve stamina and has been linked to lowering blood pressure.
When activating them during yoga sessions, you have the added benefits of increased flexibility, toned muscles, and the invaluable stress reduction and relaxation that the ancient practice brings. Those who participate in yoga often report a more positive outlook on life and improved mental clarity.
To increase the difficulty of your yoga positions and to maximise output, you can always include the use of a resistance band to up the intensity of the workout. For increased flexibility and help with recovery, a foam roller can also be incorporated.
Still not convinced it will help with your gains? Heavy hitting yoga users include New Zealand’s All Blacks, NBA legend LeBron James, and tennis champion Novak Djokovic, who all use yoga to stay focused and help with recovery.
So why wait? Grab a mat today and stretch your way to a healthier body. The variety that a new form of exercise brings shouldn’t be underestimated for alleviating boredom with your routine.