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Is Yoga Considered Strength Training, Cardio, or Both?



Yoga is a great way to build functional strength by engaging multiple muscle groups at once and replicating daily movements like bending, lifting, and squatting. While yoga does build strength, it may not target every muscle in the same way weightlifting does. Classes typically engage large muscles in your legs, upper body, and core through various poses and movements like lunges and push-ups. However, to challenge specific muscles like your lats, additional resistance from weights or resistance bands may be necessary.

For individuals looking to improve maximum strength and power, yoga may not provide enough of a challenge on its own. Since yoga primarily utilizes bodyweight for resistance, adding weights or resistance bands to your routine may be necessary to see significant gains in strength. The amount of strength benefits you can expect from yoga also depends on your current fitness level. Beginners may see more significant improvements in strength, while experienced gym-goers might not reap as many perks due to their existing level of strength.

In terms of cardiovascular benefits, certain yoga classes like vinyasa, power yoga, and hot yoga can elevate your heart rate and provide cardio benefits. However, the aerobic challenge offered by yoga may be on the milder side compared to traditional aerobic activities like running or biking. Slower-paced classes like yin or restorative yoga may not provide a significant cardio challenge. The level of cardio benefits you experience from yoga also depends on your current fitness level, with sedentary individuals potentially reaping more benefits than those who are already active.

In addition to strength and cardio benefits, yoga can also improve balance and mobility. Balancing poses like tree pose, eagle pose, and dancer’s pose challenge your ability to stay steady and can lead to improvements in overall balance. A 2015 meta-analysis of studies involving older adults published in Age and Ageing found that yoga led to small gains in balance and moderate boosts in mobility. Overall, incorporating yoga into your fitness routine can offer a variety of physical benefits, including improved strength, cardiovascular health, balance, and mobility.

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