Does Yoga Make You Strong?
More athletes and coaches are realizing that yoga complements everything they’ve been trying to achieve. Whether on the court, in the ring, on the field, on the dance floor, or in the bedroom, a regular, intelligent yoga practice makes you a better mover. It increases flexibility, expands fascial structures which allows muscles to grow, prevents injuries, relieves back pain, strengthens your nervous system for better reflexes, and keeps you grounded, steady, and cool under stress.
The Role Of Flexibility In Strength
Strength coaches have realized that yoga’s ability to free up a locked body is unmatched. A lot of exercises that people perform in a gym are muscle shortening (contraction). With a lot of repetition a huge range of motion can be lost! Then, although the muscles have a lot of power, this strength cannot be used effectively because the length of the muscle is restricted. It’s like trying to drive a car with a powerful engine while your foot is on the brakes. If you don’t train flexibility, you lose it.
I have been teaching yoga for going on fourteen years, and I specialize in teaching athletes and healing injuries. Many bodybuilders, gymnasts, runners, triathletes, martial artists, dancers, crossfitters, and more have healed severe injuries with me — and enhanced their performance significantly. Because yoga has a deep understanding of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics, physiotherapists often recommend me to their clients. They know that an intelligent yoga practice can deal in a more holistic way with pain and rehab than any other method.
You might be surprised to learn that a lot of my students are fit guys, men who care about their health. I train a lot of athletes, bodybuilders, personal trainers, and guys who want to get flexible fast. Flexibility is essentially the ability of the muscles to lengthen across a joint or group of joints. It's also often referred to as range of motion.
A lack of flexibility will increase the likelihood of injury. If you don’t have the required range of motion to perform a particular action, then you will force it to happen through improper alignment or inefficient biomechanics. There’s a maxim that says, "If you can’t, you must;" you’ll make up for your tightness in one part of the body by hyperextending in another part. This will lead to instability and the likelihood of injury. For example, if you can’t get thoracic extension, you’ll create it through the glenoid (shoulder), and this will create laxity in the anterior part of the capsule, which then hinders performance when applying strength and increases the chance of tearing the muscles or ligaments. So flexibility feeds into proper range of movement, which feeds into proper stability, which in turn feeds into proper force output.
Our maximal strength can increase through three methods. First, maximal effort training involves working at such an intensity that you cannot repeat an exercise more than three times. Second, we have the dynamic method of training, which means lifting or pressing with quick repetitions. The third method is repeat effort — when we do something repeatedly, we increase contractile proteins within the muscles, which increases force output.
The degree to which you deploy all three of those methods will determine how close you get to your maximal strength potential. Depending on the style of yoga, you can apply the method of repeat effort to help achieve your maximal strength. In vinyasa yoga, a flowing style, the postures are often linked together through repeating certain calisthenic-like movement patterns, such as downward dog, to high plank, low plank, upward dog, via low plank, to high plank, then back to downward dog. Repeat. In this way, yoga presents a key part of the puzzle for getting strong.
To read more about the science of how yoga can make you stronger click here.