When it comes to building both strength and flexibility, it’s essential to have a well-rounded and varied workout routine. If you’re someone who does HIIT (high-intensity interval training) every day, you might get stronger, but it’ll be near impossible for your body to develop flexibility without the addition of a good pre- or post-workout stretch.
Why? It’s because, as muscles grow and develop, they tear. If you don’t stretch them out, they’ll repair in a bulky, taut way. Over time, this makes the muscles increasingly inflexible and tighter, reducing your mobility and power.
So, what can you do? This is where yoga comes in.
Yoga for flexibility and strength
Yoga is a fantastic way to improve flexibility and compliment your strength training, as it challenges you to use muscles in areas many of 8fit’s HIIT workouts can’t target, i.e. smaller muscle groups. And, we’ll go ahead and shut down that common misconception: You don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. Give this yoga for flexibility and strength sequence a go — we promise you, it’ll enrich your workout routine. We’ll guide you through a number of heat-building and strengthening postures, followed by active, deep stretches.
Still curious as to why yoga is beneficial? Read on.
Why we dig yoga so much
Yoga workouts, especially ones targeting your weak or tight areas, are beneficial for both body and mind. Movements like plank, chaturanga, chair pose, and lunges build strength, while poses like forward fold, pigeon, and happy baby bring your body into a deep stretch.
Another major perk of yoga is that there are certain postures and stretches that can help you stretch those hard-to-reach, smaller muscle groups. So, whether you’re training for a distance run, a specific sport, or your all-around fitness, there are yoga postures that can help your muscles recover and possibly boost your performance.
Aside from being totally versatile, other benefits of yoga include:
Improved quality of sleep
Decrease stress levels
Balance out the body
Boost your immune system
If you’re a little trepidatious about joining a yoga class, start by bookending your quick, effective 8fit HIIT workouts with a warm-up and a stretch. We suggest that you at least add a 5-minute warm-up before (walking, dynamic stretching, low-impact cardio) and follow each workout with a stretch focusing on the muscles you worked out. So, in the end, your 8-minute HIIT workout is more like a 20-minute session but, in our humble opinion, that’s still pretty darn quick.
How yoga develops flexibility
We said this before, but we’ll say it again: You don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. Yoga is a wonderful way to improve your flexibility and, with a little practice, you’ll notice changes in your body. That said, the ultimate goal of yoga is not to increase flexibility but rather to aid in achieving a better mind-body connection and overall awareness of where we hold tension in our bodies.
Yoga enables you to identify tight areas in your body. For example, if you have trouble bending forward into your forward fold, did you know your hamstrings are most likely the culprits, not your spine? Doing yoga regularly, especially with a live instructor or with audio classes like 8fit’s, will help you really figure out what areas of your body need a little more attention.
How yoga improves strength
If you’ve ever been to a vinyasa or power yoga class, we don’t need to convince you that yoga can make you stronger. Many yoga flows challenge participants to hold a plank position, to push back to a downward facing dog, or to lower your body slowly to the ground via a tricep push-up (chaturanga). These movements help build strength overtime and warm your body up for deeper more intense stretches.
Why strength and flexibility training go hand in hand
Let’s get a little more into the powerful combination that is strength training plus flexibility training. Like we mentioned above, stretching after a strength workout helps smooth the muscle out and help them repair properly. Rest and recuperation also play a vital role in this fitness equation.
By the way…
When we say “strength workout” we’re referring to both bodyweight workouts and workouts with added load (resistance bands, free weights, etc.).
When you improve your flexibility, you’ll see benefits in your strength training like:
More coordination: If you find yourself falling off-balance when you move from one exercise to the next, increasing your flexibility can help. This enhanced coordination and balance will also help in movements like lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and one-legged deadlifts (all exercises you might encounter in an 8fit workout).
Greater range of motion: If you can’t bring your elbows mostly straight in an overhead press or you find it difficult to get low in a squat without hinging forward, flexibility training might just do the trick. Understanding proper squat form and where the tightness lies in your body will help you out.
Ability to do exercises properly and with fluidity: If you have trouble moving through a burpee like it’s a well-choreographed dance, a regular stretching routine can help make that hop forward and back more fluid. Anything to make burpees easier is a plus in our book.
This powerful training combo also helps raise the quality of your everyday movement. First off, both work together to enhance posture. They also help better your balance, enabling you to walk on uneven ground and perform day-to-day activities like lifting objects (i.e., your kids). On top of all that, all of that developed coordination and increased power will help your body react fast when you need to do things like chase your toddler, leap from building to building, run from lions — or whatever you’re up to in your superhero life.
Can I build strength and flexibility without yoga?
Of course, yoga isn’t the only way to improve strength and flexibility simultaneously.
At 8fit we recommend 3-4 8fit HIIT workouts per week. Though we don’t actively prompt you to spend time on a proper warm-up or cool-down, we highly recommend it. In order to effectively get stronger, adding flexibility training in the form of dynamic stretching pre-workout and static stretching post-workout, will raise the efficacy of your workout and prevent injury. So what, your workout becomes a little longer, but you’ll still be done in 20-25 minutes and you didn’t have to leave the comfort of your own home. Not a bad deal.
If you’re an 8fit Pro subscriber, you’ll have access to a number of yoga classes as well as all the HIIT workouts in the app. Commit to doing one per week to see and feel the benefits of a regular practice.