Does Yoga Build Muscle? (It Doesn’t)

May 20, 2023

Many people will opt for the yoga studio to build their dream body. What many don’t realize is their dream body requires building muscle. Will yoga help you with muscle growth?

Yoga doesn’t build muscle to any significant degree as it doesn’t satisfy the primary mechanism of muscle growth. Instead, yoga focuses on passive stretching and holding positions while regulating breathing.

Is yoga worth doing if you’re not going to build muscle?

Does Yoga Build Muscle?

Yoga doesn’t build muscle as there is little resistance and range of motion. The goal of yoga is typically to enter a meditative state and improve flexibility through various poses and stretches. Now, there is evidence to suggest static stretching can cause muscle hypertrophy.

For example, holding a daily calf stretch for an hour for six weeks results in muscle growth [1]. Further, stretching between sets of resistance exercises may induce further hypertrophy [2]. However, these stretching applications are far removed from practicing yoga a few times per week.

Static stretching is a weak form of activity for aesthetic or performance changes. It doesn’t induce any structural changes to the tendon or muscle and doesn’t reduce your risk of injury [3][4][5]. High levels of flexibility may even increase your risk of injury [6].

But I digress.

Many will counter this argument by saying yoga isn’t just stretching. There are also isometric poses that challenge the muscles. Again, there is evidence to suggest isometric training can build muscle [7]. However, many poses don’t stress the muscles with enough volume to grow.

Is Yoga As Good As Lifting Weights?

Is Yoga As Good As Lifting Weights

Yoga is not as good as lifting weights for building muscle. Building muscle requires maximizing mechanical tension, which is a key component [8][9][10]. To maximize mechanical tension, you must generate a lot of force with stretch.

Essentially lifting heavy weights through a full range of motion. However, you can also lift light weights close to or to failure to achieve the same muscle-building stimulus [11]. Yoga doesn’t accomplish any of this and, therefore, is not as good as lifting weights.

Can Yoga Replace Strength Training?

You cannot replace strength training with yoga. The benefits of strength training far outweigh yoga. For example, increased muscle mass and strength, preserving bone density as we age, reduced body fat, and is associated with reduced mortality [12][13][14].

Instead, use yoga to complement your strength training. This way you get the best of both worlds. Strength training for the above benefits and yoga for reducing stress and relaxing your body and mind.

Does Yoga Build Muscle And Burn Fat?

Can Yoga Replace Strength Training

Yoga doesn’t build muscle or burn fat. We’ve already covered why yoga doesn’t build muscle. But doesn’t physical activity like yoga burn fat? Sure, low-intensity exercise predominantly uses fat as fuel. But that doesn’t mean you’re burning body fat stores to any significant degree.

Losing body fat is a long-term process. It requires consuming fewer calories than you burn over weeks and months. No workout, including yoga, will melt fat off your body.

However, yoga can be a tool to increase calorie burn, so you don’t need to reduce your food intake so much. But the goal when burning fat is to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. Therefore, lifting weights is a better option than yoga.


Yoga doesn’t build muscle. If you’re completely new to exercise, you may see positive changes to your body initially. But these will stall quickly as you adapt to yoga. Instead, hit the gym and pump some iron if you want to build muscle.


1. Warneke, K., Wirth, K., Keiner, M., Lohmann, L. H., Hillebrecht, M., Brinkmann, A., … & Schiemann, S. (2023). Comparison of the effects of long-lasting static stretching and hypertrophy training on maximal strength, muscle thickness and flexibility in the plantar flexors. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 1-15.

2. Mohamad, N. I., Nosaka, K., & Cronin, J. (2011). Maximizing hypertrophy: Possible contribution of stretching in the interset rest period. Strength & Conditioning Journal33(1), 81-87.

3. Freitas, S. R., Mendes, B., Le Sant, G., Andrade, R. J., Nordez, A., & Milanovic, Z. (2018). Can chronic stretching change the muscle‐tendon mechanical properties? A review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports28(3), 794-806.

4. Konrad, A., & Tilp, M. (2014). Increased range of motion after static stretching is not due to changes in muscle and tendon structures. Clinical biomechanics29(6), 636-642.

5. Lauersen, J. B., Bertelsen, D. M., & Andersen, L. B. (2014). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British journal of sports medicine48(11), 871-877.

6. Nuzzo, J. L. (2020). The case for retiring flexibility as a major component of physical fitness. Sports Medicine50(5), 853-870.

7. Oranchuk, D. J., Storey, A. G., Nelson, A. R., & Cronin, J. B. (2019). Isometric training and long‐term adaptations: Effects of muscle length, intensity, and intent: A systematic review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports29(4), 484-503.

8. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(10), 2857-2872.

9. Wackerhage, H., Schoenfeld, B. J., Hamilton, D. L., Lehti, M., & Hulmi, J. J. (2019). Stimuli and sensors that initiate skeletal muscle hypertrophy following resistance exercise. Journal of applied physiology.

10. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review of advanced resistance training techniques and methods. International journal of environmental research and public health16(24), 4897.

11. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low-vs. high-load resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research31(12), 3508-3523.

12. Seguin, R., & Nelson, M. E. (2003). The benefits of strength training for older adults. American journal of preventive medicine25(3), 141-149.

13. Barbieri, D., & Zaccagni, L. (2013). Strength training for children and adolescents: Benefits and risks. Collegium antropologicum37(2), 219-225.

14. Kraschnewski, J. L., Sciamanna, C. N., Poger, J. M., Rovniak, L. S., Lehman, E. B., Cooper, A. B., … & Ciccolo, J. T. (2016). Is strength training associated with mortality benefits? A 15 year cohort study of US older adults. Preventive medicine87, 121-127.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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