Can You Get Ripped with Yoga? (Let’s Get Real…)

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Key Takeaways

  • You can get ripped with yoga, granted you have muscle mass, to begin with.
  • Yoga is pretty bad for retaining muscle, but it can help with fat loss.
  • You would also need to diet and train with resistance to get ripped with yoga.

Yoga has been around since the early 19th century, and it’s safe to say it’s more popular than it’s ever been! But can you get ripped, shredded abs, and veiny legs with yoga?

Technically, you could get ripped with yoga, but it’d be extremely tough. Ideally, you’d want to diet and train with resistance as well, but let me tell you more about that in detail.

Can You Replace Weights with Yoga?!

So, the very first question that popped into my mind when someone asked me this is: Could theoretically replace weights with yoga? After all, both of these practices require you to work with resistance, and in both activities, you sometimes find yourself in a position of:

“I don’t really know what I’m doing, but it hurts… No pain, no gain, am I right?… Nope, nope that hurts a lot.”

Pawn Stars "Best I Can Do" with yoga

I’m by no means a yogi. However, I have done quite a few yoga sessions in my life, and some weren’t just normal yoga, either. Some were hot yoga, some were focused on flexibility, etc.

So, first, let’s look at the similarities and differences between yoga and weight training.

Yoga Focuses on Using Your Own Body as Resistance

If you’ve ever peered into a yoga class, you’ll have noticed a lack of weights. Or machines. Or bands. Or anything.

That’s because yoga doesn’t use anything external as resistance. The whole goal of yoga is “breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures.”

Weights, on the other hand, use mechanical tension as the main resistance. This means you’ll use pretty much anything that’ll place mechanical tension on the muscle. For example, bands, weights, dumbbells, etc. This tension is due to resistance, and the resistance is usually due to gravity — but not always.

Weight Training Focuses on the Progression

If you find yourself in a yoga session with someone yelling at you to work through the pain, leave. If that gets yelled at you in the middle of a squat session, work through the pain, damn it!

Yoga is more focused on flow and improving technique, which will lead to better yoga practice.

Weight training, on the other hand, has you using more weight, more volume, more time under tension, and intensifiers to increase mechanical tension. Why? To build more muscle!

More muscle is what you want with weights, whereas, with yoga, more muscle could actually limit your mobility — ask me how I know.

So, could you actually build muscle doing yoga? The answer is maybe.

See, it depends on where you start. If your starting position is someone who’s never trained a day in your life, and now you’re suddenly doing yoga 2 hours a day, sure, you could build some muscle mass.

That said if you’ve been slinging weights around for the past 10 years, and you have a 700lb deadlift, chances are, yoga ain’t gonna be doing much.

The reason for that is that it simply isn’t a challenge anymore. The body reacts in response to a need, not a want.

You should give it a reason for it to adapt, and if you have a ton of muscle already, the body will laugh in the face of yoga. No matter how much you want it to build muscle.

But, for argument’s sake, let’s say you’re entirely new to training. You’ve never done any weights in your life, and you simply start doing yoga one day.

How long before you start seeing results, and what else can you do to increase your chances of building muscle?

How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle with Yoga?

So you’ve decided yoga is your weapon against muscular atrophy. Huzzah!

But let’s talk numbers. What is it going to take to actually build muscle doing yoga?

The truth is, you would probably start building muscle the first day you do yoga, but because the amount you’ll be building is tiny compared to what weightlifters gain, you’ll barely notice it for months.

Yoga is just not that challenging. Sure, there are certain moves that are more challenging.

However, there are plenty of reasons why Yoga kinda sucks for muscle growth, including.:

  • No active range of motion takes place. In most cases, you remain stationary in position. Isometric workouts do work, but they aren’t nearly as beneficial as their concentric and eccentric counterparts.
  • No progression. As mentioned, there is no progression with yoga. You just hold the position and do the same thing next time, but with a small change. While this is progression, it’s hard enough to force muscle growth.
  • What mechanical failure? You never ever get close to mechanical failure doing yoga. Not “essential,” but man, is it beneficial for muscle growth, especially when muscle size is the ultimate goal.
  • Low-calorie burn. While yoga can help you burn a bunch of calories, it doesn’t really compare to 60 minutes of cardio and 90 minutes of heavy lifting. (Swimming and kayaking can also help get you ripped and burn a lot more calories than yoga.)
  • BMR doesn’t increase much. Since you don’t grow muscle as quickly from yoga, your basal metabolic rate won’t increase the same as it would for someone doing weights. Essentially, the more muscle you have, the bigger your motor is. The bigger the motor, the more fuel (food or fat) it uses.

But How Much Could I Theoretically Gain from Yoga?

As a beginner, you can probably gain a good 3 – 5 lbs of lean muscle mass with yoga. The thing is, it might take you a really long time!

With resistance training (and the correct diet), you can gain anywhere between 0.5 – 1.0% of body weight per week! Yoga? Good luck hitting 0.05 – 0.1% of lean mass gain per week.

As you can see, it is possible to see gains with yoga, and it is possible to get lean as well. But it’s about as efficient as going to Texas. Not by car.

But by crawling.

On your belly.

Like a snake.

I'm a snake meme

So How Do I Get Lean with Yoga?

We’ve all seen the skinny mums and dads all doing yoga. Surely it has to do something. You aren’t wrong. If you really do want to get ripped doing yoga, you’re gonna have to diet — a lot.

Essentially, you have to follow a few guidelines:

  • You have to be in a calorie deficit of around 200 calories or 10%, whichever comes first. This helps create the “room” where your body will use stored body fat as fuel to keep you alive.
  • You have to eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, preferably more, to be honest. More protein means more muscle and less fat; it’s science!
  • The rest of your calories can be split between carbs and fats as you’d like.
  • Consume plenty of veggies and starchy carbs to fill you up and keep hunger at bay.
  • Don’t reduce your calories too low, as it could lead to some muscle loss. Also, don’t diet for more than 12 weeks on end (if you’re only going to be yoga).

These may sound like the tips a bodybuilder would follow, and that’s because they are. Yoga just isn’t a great sport or activity for muscle retention, so your diet has to be damn near perfect in order to get you results.

Unfortunately, that’s just the way results work. Especially in the world of fitness and fat loss.

You cannot outsmart the plan, you cannot outperform a bad diet, and you certainly cannot out-train a bad diet with yoga. If you’re limited that much with training, your diet has to be on point — always. Also, you’re probably going to have to diet really hard to get super lean!

So, Can You Get Ripped with Yoga?

For 90% of the population, no, you will not get ripped with only yoga.

The reasons are simple:

  • Yoga isn’t hard enough for muscle retention to be boosted to the max.
  • Yoga doesn’t incorporate progressive overload; thus, there’s no real muscle growth, either.
  • Yoga is about static movements, and muscle growth is far superior when using the full range of motion.

That said, you can still lose weight while doing yoga. Just don’t make yoga the only thing that you do. Make sure your diet is on point, you do some cardio (walking helps!), and if you can, try resistance training as well!

In the end, it boils down to 5 components:

  1. Training is hard enough, but not too hard. Control your volume accordingly.
  2. Hitting your macros and hydration goals for the day, every single day. This is one of the easiest things you can do to increase the results you see.
  3. Controlling stress levels is critical. Stress cannot only slow fat loss but also increase muscle loss.
  4. Sleep. Failure to sleep enough will also lead to muscle loss (and, potentially, fat gain!).
  5. Supplements. If you so choose, use the correct supplements (creatine, whey protein, etc.).

If you make yoga part of a regular training plan with a good diet, I’m sure you’ll see results in no time! For instance, three heavy lifting sessions with two yoga sessions in between isn’t too much.

When fat loss slows down, simply add a wee bit of cardio in there, and you’re good!

The last point: Stay consistent. Being perfect is never really achievable, so for the most part, just try and remain as consistent as you possibly can. This avoids burnout and relapses.

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