I am one of those guys who have a tough time gaining weight. I learned yoga at a young age and always enjoyed doing it.
But when it came to gaining weight or adding muscle, I realized it wasn’t helping me as much, especially with my high metabolism. So I started going to the gym in an effort to gain strength and muscle—which I did, except I missed being flexible and the feel-good factor you get after a yoga session.
For a long time, I thought it had to be one or the other, and went through a journey of mixing my gym workouts and yoga sessions and also losing and gaining weight in the process. Over the past year or so, I have successfully combined the two and found that they actually complement each other perfectly.
So whether you are looking to gain weight, or just want to increase your strength, or heck, even just to add some variety to your yoga routine, here are 10 of my favorite strength-building exercises.
5 Upper Body Exercises
- Push-ups – You start in Plank Pose, lower yourself to the ground, and push yourself off of it. Done for multiple reps, push-ups strengthen your shoulders, triceps, and chest. Keep doing this and eventually you’ll master it for multiple repetitions.
- Pull-ups/Chin-ups – You hang off of a bar/ledge/tree branch and you pull yourself up to it. It’s not as easy to do as it sounds, especially for beginners, but it’s one of the best exercises for building upper-body strength.
- Headstands/Handstands – Even when I was a beginner in yoga, I always tried to work my way to a handstand/headstand after every session just because I thought they were fun. They are fantastic for building upper body strength (and admittedly, for showing off). If you are already a handstand master, try the handstand push-up.
- Dips – You probably need to go to a gym for this one since you need parallel bars, but dips once again strengthen your chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles. You can also try doing them using two back-to-back chairs at home if you feel like experimenting.
- Bench Press – All the above exercises require some amount of prerequisite strength to be able to do. If you find them hard, you can try the bench press with an empty bar and gradually add weight. Also simple yoga poses such as the ones in the Sun Salutation sequence can help strengthen your upper body.
5 Lower Body Exercises
- Squats – Bodyweight squats with your hips going below your knee joint are great for building strength in the legs. If you are willing to go further, do them with a weight on your back.
- Standing Yoga Poses – If you are taking a yoga class, you are probably already doing these, but the fundamental standing yoga poses including the three Warrior poses, Chair Pose (Utkatasana), and Half-Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana), are great for toning and strengthening your legs.
- Lunges – These are simple to do and doing the bodyweight version for multiple repetitions will strengthen your thighs. Doing the weighted version is also an option if you want to progress further.
- Pistol Squats – These are hard to do but really fun to try. I still haven’t mastered it myself but if you’re looking to test your lower body strength and flexibility, it’s a great exercise.
- Glute-Ham Raises – You need gym equipment for this one but makes use of just your bodyweight and strengthens your hamstrings and glutes, which are muscle groups that tend to get neglected.
The only thing to keep in mind with regard to the exercises above is to make sure you target both the upper and lower body to prevent muscle imbalances. Also, when it comes to upper body exercises, try and balance push and pull exercises.
So what are you waiting for? Try some of these exercises and get better at your yoga poses with the added strength.