Yoga for Bodybuilding: How Getting Flexible Helps You Gain Muscle

The parable of the muscle-bound bodybuilder must die. Certain, if you happen to’re an Open competitor at the Mr. Olympia, you could not be capable to hit the splits (though, a number of the greatest posers in bodybuilding actually can). However if you wish to achieve essentially the most mass potential, you might want to stretch your considering. Mobility issues for the muscle-minded simply as a lot because the devoted yogi or profession gymnast. 

Should you hit the weights in pursuit of your very best physique, doing yoga could appear to be a silly use of your time — however that couldn’t be farther from the reality. In actual fact, mixing some yoga into your bodybuilding routine may simply be what you might want to take your physique to the following degree. 

 A shirtless muscular person doing yoga.
Credit score: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

To get essentially the most out of your time on the mat, you might want to know the way yoga and bodybuilding work together, what stretches to do, and when to do them. Right here’s how you need to use yoga to build muscle

Can You Mix Yoga and Bodybuilding?

Briefly; sure. They might look distinct from the surface, however yoga and bodybuilding share extra qualities than you may assume at first look. The lengthy reply is a little more difficult. Stretching is probably not considered poison to the muscle-gaining process, however how it is best to integrate yoga into your coaching isn’t completely reduce and dry. 

Stretching vs. Yoga

First, you might want to have a working understanding of the variations (and similarities) between stretching and yoga. A layman may regard them as the identical factor — and that’s partly correct, in some contexts — however you’d be higher off with a extra nuanced perspective.

Stretching is a modality of recovery. The first objective of stretching in athletic contexts is to improve soft tissue flexibility as a technique of making ready for (and recovering from) bodily coaching

A bodybuilder doing yoga.
Credit score: FXQuadro / Shutterstock

However, yoga is a practice that is available in a wide range of totally different kinds; some are extra bodily demanding than others. Yoga practitioners incorporate loads of stretching as a part of their observe, however flexibility isn’t a objective unto itself. It’s, for essentially the most half, a consequence of training yoga for its personal sake. 

You possibly can stretch your physique with out training yoga. Whereas most types of yoga comprise plenty of stretching, it isn’t essentially the objective in all circumstances. Bodybuilders can use yoga for all the identical causes anybody else does; to enhance their mobility, chill out their minds and muscle tissues, or add in a little bit of off-day motion. All of which, by numerous means, contribute to physique development

What the Science Says

Right here’s the place issues get attention-grabbing. There isn’t a lot in the way in which of analysis finding out bodybuilders who do yoga particularly. Nevertheless, there’s a big physique of literature finding out how stretching interacts with hypertrophy and weight room efficiency, and you may apply a lot of that rationale to yoga and bodybuilding. 

For a few years, standard knowledge (what you may consider as “bro-science”) in weight rooms mentioned that you just shouldn’t combine stretching with heavy lifting or sport-related actions. Sure research have displayed that static stretching — as in, holding a joint in a stretched place with out transferring for a time period — can cut back subsequent exercise performance. Some papers have gone so far as to state that stretching earlier than you raise can negatively affect hypertrophy. (1)

Nevertheless, the scientific neighborhood has since taken a extra delicate stance as new analysis has come to mild. Whereas static stretching immediately earlier than weight coaching could dampen your energy or energy potential, the impact seems to dissipate if you happen to merely wait a couple of minutes earlier than hitting the weights. However, if you happen to perform dynamic stretches, you may even carry out higher. (2)

So, in real-world phrases, your beneficial properties in all probability gained’t endure a lot if you happen to stretch before (or after) your workout, except you’re going from a stretch immediately right into a high-effort set. You might have a inexperienced mild to observe a little bit of yoga as a part of your warm-up or cool-down. However what about stretching between units? 

Inter-Set Stretching for Hypertrophy

The idea of inter-set stretching is gaining plenty of momentum within the evidence-based health neighborhood. Some bodybuilding coaches and opponents tout it as an efficient (albeit area of interest and as-of-yet unconfirmed) methodology of boosting muscle growth throughout a exercise. 

Some current proof has proven {that a} 20-second stint of stretching during downtime between units of resistance coaching could modestly enhance muscle thickness. (3) Nevertheless, the writers famous that their findings weren’t conclusive. Different research have proven no definitive profit or hurt. (4)

There’s a basic consensus that between-set behaviors are extremely contextual to your objectives. (5) Should you’re chasing mass, some transient stretches between units could assist. Nevertheless, if you happen to train for both strength and measurement, you could be higher served by really resting throughout your rests.

Centered downtime, throughout which you mentally prepare in your subsequent set (as a substitute of turning to your smartphone out of boredom), is your greatest wager if you wish to produce essentially the most drive on each train. 

Your Takeaways

  • Yoga and bodybuilding aren’t solely dissimilar. Each actions contain taking your muscle tissues by their full vary of movement, typically in opposition to resistance.
  • Yoga and stretching will not be the identical; yoga is supposed to enhance greater than the flexibleness of your joints. 
  • Stretching (whether or not as a standalone exercise or as a part of a yoga move) could negatively affect your strength or energy within the quick time period, however if you happen to wait a couple of minutes earlier than hitting the weights the results largely dissipate. 
  • Doing stretches or a yoga move as a part of your warm-up or cool-down isn’t more likely to diminish the results of your workout in any method.
  • Stretching between units of resistance coaching could boost hypertrophy a bit, however don’t put all of your eggs into that basket. 

Advantages of Yoga for Bodybuilding

Yoga is likely one of the greatest issues you are able to do to improve your performance within the weight room. The most effective half, although, is that you just don’t need to contort your self right into a pretzel to reap the advantages the observe supplies. Some low-level static or dynamic stretching earlier than (or after) your exercise can do wonders. 

Helps You Entry Extra Vary of Movement

Broadly talking, when training for hypertrophy it is best to at all times try to  by its full vary of movement. If, for instance, you might have extraordinarily tight hamstrings, you could not be capable to entry essentially the most useful components of the Romanian deadlift throughout your leg workouts.

Yoga might help you “entry” the boundaries of your vary of movement by stretching the tissue with out the specter of a heavy load. If in case you have tight hammies, you could be hesitant to sink right into a deep hip hinge with a heavy barbell in your palms, limiting your muscle-building potential.

Three people doing yoga.
Credit score: WAWA WARIS / Shutterstock

Stretching a good muscle is a obligatory precursor to loading it with weight. You don’t need to stretch a tissue previous its normal tolerance for the primary time with further resistance as nicely. 

Gives Psychological Readability

Your mentality impacts your workouts extra deeply than you in all probability understand. Should you’ve been within the bodybuilding sport for some time, you’re actually conscious of the peaks and valleys that have a tendency to return with devoted physique development

Working towards a method of yoga that encourages psychological leisure and readability of thought, resembling Hatha or Yin, can make it easier to unwind after an exhausting leg or back workout whereas additionally stretching out the tissues you simply educated. 

You may additionally take into account doing a little yoga in your off days as a mild type of active recovery. This might help stimulate nutrient supply to broken tissues and mean you can mentally focus in your objectives. 

Improves Blood Circulation

Good circulation is essential for guaranteeing that your dietary efforts don’t go to waste. This issues extra for recovery than overall muscle gain, however all issues stored equal, extra blood move is best than much less. 

 Four people doing yoga.
Credit score: El Nariz / Shutterstock

Yoga will be significantly helpful in-between exercises as a way of conducting this with out taxing your physique an excessive amount of. If you’re traveling and are caught in a small airplane or automotive seat for hours, otherwise you work a desk job, doing a short yoga move can actually open you up and prime your physique for coaching

Burns (Some) Energy

Should you’re cutting (whether or not below the supervision of a physique coach or not), each calorie burned makes your life a bit simpler. Nevertheless, you in all probability shouldn’t pile on the cardio to the detriment of your efficiency and sanity. 

The deeper you get right into a fat loss phase, the extra economical you might want to be about your bodily exercise selections. A reasonable to vigorous yoga session will burn a good number of calories with out placing a lot pressure in your joints or asking an excessive amount of of your muscle tissues. 

Greatest Yoga Poses for Bodybuilding

Should you’ve dedicated to creating yoga part of your outside-the-gym bodybuilding routine, the next step is to pick out the appropriate poses and stretches. Physique athletes have a tendency to carry tightness and pressure in lots of the identical locations; opening and loosening your chest, hips, hamstrings, and thoracic backbone is essential.

Bow Pose

Should you prepare for energy and measurement, you in all probability bench with lots of the hallmarks of a powerlifter, together with a correct spinal arch. To carry out higher and extra comfortably on the bench, you possibly can loosen up your pecs and hips concurrently with the bow pose.

Even when the barbell bench isn’t a part of your chest day, it is best to nonetheless stretch out your pecs and entrance delts both earlier than or after your exercise. Restricted, hunched shoulders “compress” your physique and make your torso seem extra slim. 

Upward-Dealing with Canine

Your lower back could also be extra of a assist construction than a mirror muscle, however it is best to nonetheless prepare all of it the identical if you wish to develop a killer posterior chain and finally deliver out that coveted Christmas tree. The upward-facing canine pose is a good way to introduce some end-range stimulation to your decrease again and hip flexors

Not solely will the upward-facing canine alleviate stress in your lower back and hips, it’s a sensible plug-and-play possibility. You possibly can maintain this pose for a number of beats between units of nearly any motion throughout your exercise to maintain your backbone feeling good. 

Yoga Push-Up

Not each good yoga pose requires you to carry your self nonetheless on the ground along with your joints tousled in a knot. You possibly can mix some dynamic pre-activation motion with a posterior chain stretch with the yoga push-up.

This drill will activate your pecs, delts, and triceps whereas stretching out your higher again, glutes, and hamstrings. It’s extra vigorous than an ordinary yoga pose, so take into account incorporating this one as a part of your warm-up protocol. 

Pigeon Pose

If you wish to construct the largest, beefiest legs potential, the very last thing you need is stiff hips that forestall you from sinking right into a deep squat or hinge. The pigeon pose is likely one of the greatest choices on the market for mobilizing your hips and lower back.

Essentially the most useful facet of the pigeon pose is that it permits you to stretch and open one hip at a time. Sure bilateral (that’s two-legged) poses can masks imbalances in flexibility or pressure, however it is best to discover immediately in case you have any side-to-side discrepancies between your hips.

Open E-book Pose

You want an unrestricted and cell backbone from cranium to sacrum if you wish to correctly prepare the numerous muscles in your back. Additional, if you happen to work a desk job or spend plenty of time sitting in the identical place through the day, you possibly can simply arrive on the health club feeling twisted up and much from able to smash a back workout. Treatment this with the open e-book pose to loosen up your thoracic backbone

Observe that this pose does comprise some twisting at the spine, which is under no circumstances inherently dangerous however could expose your vertebrae to a brand new stressor. Regardless, this pose is fantastic for getting your spine ready to bear load.  

Swole and Flexy

Bodybuilding is as a lot performative art as it’s a aggressive sport. Constructing your best physique is simply half the battle — it’s important to know the right way to present it off as nicely. To take action, you want the flexibleness to hit all the appropriate poses.

That’s the place the worth of yoga shines for the bodybuilder. Whether or not you employ it to limber up before a workout, get better a bit faster in your off days, or clear your head earlier than a brand new section of coaching, your time on the mats shall be well-spent when it comes time to hit the weights. 


  1. Junior, R. M., Berton, R., de Souza, T. M., Chacon-Mikahil, M. P., & Cavaglieri, C. R. (2017). Impact of the flexibleness coaching carried out instantly earlier than resistance coaching on muscle hypertrophy, most energy and adaptability. European journal of utilized physiology, 117(4), 767–774. 
  2. Yamaguchi, T., & Ishii, Ok. (2005). Results of static stretching for 30 seconds and dynamic stretching on leg extension energy. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 19(3), 677–683.
  3. Van Each, D. W., Coleman, M., Rosa, A., Zambrano, H., Plotkin, D., Torres, X., Mercado, M., De Souza, E. O., Alto, A., Oberlin, D. J., Vigotsky, A. D., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2022). Loaded inter-set stretch could selectively improve muscular diversifications of the plantar flexors. PloS one, 17(9), e0273451. 
  4. Wadhi, T., Barakat, C., Evangelista, A. L., Pearson, J. R., Anand, A. S., Morrison, T. E. A., O’Sullivan, J., Walters, J., & Souza, E. O. (2022). Loaded Inter-set Stretching for Muscular Diversifications in Educated Males: Is the Hype Actual?. Worldwide journal of sports activities medication, 43(2), 168–176. 
  5. Latella, C., Grgic, J., & Van der Westhuizen, D. (2019). Impact of Interset Methods on Acute Resistance Coaching Efficiency and Physiological Responses: A Systematic Evaluation. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 33 Suppl 1, S180–S193. 

Featured Picture: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

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