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Can yoga give me similar benefits to weight training?

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The question

Is yoga a reasonable substitute for upper-body weight training? My right shoulder gives me a lot of grief whenever I lift weights. I'd like to stop weight training and do yoga instead.

The answer

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First, make an appointment with a physiotherapist or sports medicine doctor to diagnose the root of your shoulder pain. Once you have been given the okay by the health practitioner, you can continue to work your upper body.

The answer to your "yoga versus weights" question is complicated because you did not specify what type of yoga you are doing or what your training goals are.

If your goal is to gain muscle size or to train for a specific sport, yoga will not be enough. If your goal is to be more active, yoga could be a partial substitute for weights, depending on the type of yoga you do.

Different types of yoga offer slightly different benefits. A restorative or Hatha class will offer greater relaxation benefits, whereas an Ashtanga class is more vigorous and involves more weight-bearing exercises, making it a better substitute for weight training.

That said, the main downside of yoga is that it does not include enough exercises that work the upper back or strengthen the rotator cuff.

My suggestion is this: Include one day of weights in the gym each week where you do variations on the pull-up, rows and rotator cuff external rotation. And then spend the rest of the week doing yoga to your heart's content.

Trainer's tip

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Ask the physiotherapist to watch you run through some of the exercises you did in your original weight training routine so he or she can pinpoint any form flaws that may have contributed to your original shoulder pain.



Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at trainer@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in the Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.



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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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