Strength training and yoga are not interchangeable activities, they differ greatly and one cannot replace the other due to this.
No spam – just thoughtful training advice
We have discussed the benefits of strength training in multiple of our other articles and shown multiple examples of strength exercises that runners can use to great effect.
None of them involves yoga positions. This isn’t to take away from the benefits that some yoga positions might have on running performance. Improving single leg balance and knee stability through yoga may well be very effective at mitigating hip and knee injuries. However, strength training will likely be much more effective at generating the physical characteristics we are working towards to support running performance.
A key part of this response is understanding what is meant by “enough”. People have been running without strength training since our species has been around, so mixing yoga and running will easily be enough to run effectively and avoid injury. Most injury prevention is done through appropriate programming, avoiding drastic increases in volume (kilometres ran), so although strength training and yoga can help, they will not magically prevent all injury. So, if by enough you mean enough to run effectively without injury, then yes, yoga is enough for runners.
If however, by enough you mean enough to optimises training performance, then no, yoga will not create the desired adaptations to optimise running performance. Building strength in the legs (quads, hamstrings, glutes) will help improve running economy (running efficiency) and therefore help improve performance. This will not be the case with yoga, yoga will not be able to apply enough stress/load on the lower body to create adaptation enough for strength improvements. This means yoga is not the optimal strength training regime for maximising running performance.
All that being said, we do not have to optimise every activity we enjoy doing, if you enjoy running for the sake of running and enjoy yoga as well, you are on your way to building an extremely healthy lifestyle. You do not need to feel the need to add strength training to your routine to see slight improvements in your running. Just be aware that strength training is beneficial for health and performance for very different reasons than yoga and one cannot replace the other.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.