From the Mat to the Bench: How Yoga is Great for Weight Lifting

Image Credit: Eugenio


I’ve been a personal trainer in Manhattan now for over 5 years, and I’ve had the privilege of training all walks of life. I consider myself to be an expert in resistance training, and the more I practice yoga, and the more yogis I work with, the more respect for yoga I have.

In a world (the weight room) where yoga is often times looked down on as “not manly enough,” and a cardinal sin amongst real “macho” (and ignorant) guys, I’m proud to say that I truly believe a strong yoga practice translates quite well to the resistance training programs I create for my clients.  After seeing the similarities between my yogi clients, and after practicing yoga myself now for a few years, it is with great pleasure I list the benefits of yoga in relation to gaining strength, and how the practice can translate quite well onto the gym floor.


1. Body Awareness

 No one is more in touch with their bodies than yogis. During mat work, when I say “keep your tailbone tucked,” so their lumbar spine is flat against the mat for Leg Raises, their tailbone instantly tucks, and therefore their entire spine is flat against the mat. This may seem like no big deal, but another client may need some extra time to figure out the body mechanics that go into such a small maneuver. If your lower back is arched during this exercise, it can create strain, and you are more likely to pull your erector spinae muscles. This translates well for pretty much 90% of resistance training exercises in the book!


2. Overall Demeanor

Cool, calm, and collected is the yogi way. Here in the Big Apple, the pace is fast and aggressive, but none of my yogi clients ever show up visibly stressed out and edgy to our sessions. They come to the gym with a great positive mental attitude ready to workout no matter what external stress is on their minds. Hey, even I can learn a thing or two from this.


3. Mental Focus

For full body movements like burpees or walk-outs, where you’re moving your body through all different planes of motion for a single rep, or for multitasking exercises where we work more than 1 muscle group at a time (Squat with a Press/Lunge with a Curl), the yogi is focused throughout the whole duration of the set. Tough mental focus keeps him/her unaffected by the activity on the gym floors (and crappy loud music), concentrating on the the task at hand.


4. Slow And Controlled Movements

I’m a stickler for form and safe exercises during my workouts. I think during exercise, a lot of people who feel the burning sensation in their muscles halfway through a set unknowingly speed up their reps just to get the set over with. This can lead to jerky, unnatural movements that can cause injury. Whereas slow and controlled movements learned within the walls of a yoga studio teaches the yogi that slow and steady *almost always wins the race.

*I say “almost” because sometimes fast reps are better for my clients, depending on what goals they have.


5. Range Of Motion/Flexibility 

In my opinion, flexibility is the most overlooked aspect of fitness. Except if you practice yoga.  Cardiovascular exercise and resistance training is very important, but if you can’t touch your toes, what good is it? I like that more often than not, my yogi clients have the hip mobility to do deep Squats with hamstrings AT LEAST parallel to the floor, have the shoulder mobility to perform a Military Press with their arms in line with their ears, and the spinal mobility/hamstring flexibility to perform safe and efficient Straight Leg Deadlifts with no problem. This means we can spend less time working on muscle flexibility/joint mobility, and more time having fun with the weights!

If you've been thinking about trying yoga as a supplement to the gym, don't hesitate any longer.



Greg Sher, Founder of I Kill Fat, Manhattan Personal Training has been a personal trainer in NYC for over 5 years (and vegan for 4!). Offering custom resistance training programs, nutritional guidance, and convenience to his clients, Greg’s mission is to make training as efficient and fun as possible. Visit the website: and book your complimentary personal training session today!