Yoga for Bodybuilding? How Improving Flexibility Helps Build Muscle


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Yoga is an incredibly versatile practice that offers both flexibility and strength benefits with minimal time and space requirements. While it’s known for enhancing flexibility, it also serves as an effective tool for strengthening various muscle groups.

Mobility is a crucial aspect for individuals focused on muscle development, whether they are weightlifters, yogis, or committed gymnasts. Despite the initial perception that yoga might not align with the goals of those pursuing an ideal physique through bodybuilding, the opposite is actually true.

To maximize the benefits of yoga along with bodybuilding, understanding the connection between the two, identifying the appropriate stretches, and knowing when to incorporate them are key factors.

In this article, we will dive deeper and learn more about yoga for bodybuilding. But don’t worry, you don’t need to wear yoga pants to see potential benefits.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before making any changes to your exercise regimen.

Yoga for Muscle Growth?

In yoga, muscle building doesn’t rely on lifting traditional weights. Instead, body weight serves as resistance in various poses, creating tension that can stimulate muscle fiber breakdown. The body responds by building additional muscle mass, promoting overall strength. Choosing specific asanas can effectively contribute to this process.

A study involving 1,664 young adults revealed that those practicing yoga for at least 30 minutes weekly demonstrated higher body satisfaction, emphasizing the positive impact of yoga on physical well-being.

5 Reasons Bodybuilders Do Yoga

Bodybuilding boosts muscle strength for yoga, while yoga enhances strength, mobility, and recovery.

Below are five reasons why bodybuilders turn to yoga to build more muscle.

1.      Yoga helps you improve flexibility and mobility

Flexibility is a cornerstone of overall physical well-being, and as we age, maintaining muscle flexibility becomes increasingly crucial. Yoga emerges as a powerful tool for enhancing flexibility, addressing common challenges such as sedentary lifestyles, stressors, and postural issues — both on and off the mat.

Some of the benefits include a heightened sense of movement fluidity and reduced discomfort. With consistent practice, individuals often find diminished warm-up needs, accelerated recovery, and increased ease in attaining various positions.

An improvement in flexibility can help when posing on stage as well since you’ll be more limber and not as tight.

2.      Efficient muscle engagement

Having yoga in your fitness routine promotes efficient muscle function by training them to engage without succumbing to the natural reflex of shutting down during stretches.

The practice nurtures a dynamic interplay between muscles and tendons, fostering increased flexibility and strength. This improved coordination not only optimizes performance in yoga but also translates to improved overall physical capabilities and reduced injury risk in various activities.

3.      It helps your muscles look better

Stretching through yoga not only enhances muscle aesthetics but is crucial for competitive bodybuilders. Yoga imparts essential lessons on precise movements and proper posture, enabling bodybuilders to showcase their bodies in the most appealing manner.

4.      Increased blood flow

The relaxation exercises in yoga promote increased blood circulation, particularly around your hands and legs. This improved blood flow ensures that your muscles receive a proper supply of nutrients for repair and growth.

Additionally, experiencing a better pump during your workouts can contribute to that satisfying and invigorating feeling. Moreover, yoga helps in getting more oxygen into your cells, improving their functioning as a result.

5.      Reduced cortisol activity

Cortisol is a significant concern in the bodybuilding community, being a hormone released during stress. In today’s stressful environment, chronically increased cortisol levels are common, posing a threat to your progress. Excess cortisol can undo months of hard work in just a few weeks, weakening the immune system and, as a catabolic hormone, potentially harming your well-earned muscles.

Studies have shown that practicing yoga is linked to reduced cortisol levels, increased resilience, increased pain tolerance, improved mood, and decreased anxiety. Some specific yoga poses, along with extended hold times, are believed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a rest-and-digest response that counters the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism.

Can Yoga Help You Build a Bigger Back?

Let’s be real: shows are won from the back (or at least so they say). So, can yoga for bodybuilders help enhance a bodybuilder’s presentation and muscle growth from the back? The answer may shock you.

Yoga is a holistic exercise regimen offering various benefits for both muscle strength and flexibility. A recent study has shown the positive impact of yoga on muscle growth. By incorporating stretching into active muscle contractions, yoga contributes to enhanced muscle development, showcasing its potential as a comprehensive exercise approach.

When it comes to the back muscles, yoga emerges as a particularly beneficial practice. The diverse range of yoga poses relies on the flexibility and strength of the spine.

During twisting poses, the discs in the spine decompress, elongating the spine and triggering increased blood flow to the surrounding muscles. This process promotes muscle growth, which improves both resilience and flexibility.

Another study from 2015 demonstrated the efficacy of Hatha yoga in improving flexibility, muscle strength, and balance, even among individuals with spinal injuries.

Moreover, yoga has earned recognition as a form of strength exercise in its own right. A 2015 study recommended yoga as a standalone strength training exercise. By emphasizing consistent progression, yoga becomes a valuable asset in strengthening the musculoskeletal system and contributing to overall physical well-being.