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Backpacking Fitness

Yoga vs. Weights

Which is best for trail readiness?

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Last week, the strength-training program I’ve been following for two months had me switch over from mostly working out with weights to strengthening my core and increasing my flexibility with a series of yoga moves. And that seemed odd. Usually I see exercise programs start with yoga to build flexibility, balance, and core strength and then bring in the iron to keep building up the power initially created from the yoga moves. I’m not going to say my current program’s doing it wrong—I want to see the program through and see how I end up—but this did start me thinking about which exercise would do a better job keeping me in trail-ready shape.

Reality Check: Before I continue this, let me just say that the ideal situation is to do both yoga and weightlifting concurrently, say yoga twice a week and lifting twice a week, along with a thrice weekly cardio workout. Yes, seven workouts spread over six days is a lot to ask in a week, but for the sake of this argument, I’m going to talk about a best-case scenario.


Pros: Fine tunes the mind-body connection and keeps the whole body in sync, and, if you can do a headstand, instills phenomenal core strength. It makes everything in life seem easier, from scrambling to rock climbing. The strength you build is the kind you tap for stamina.

Cons: It only prepares you to deal with moving your bodyweight. Throw a 60-pound pack on your back and all bets are off. There’s even a school of thought amongst sports-specific coaches that you can be too flexible for your own good—that you can actually increase your chances of injury.


Pros: Weight-bearing exercises are important for maintaining bone density, especially in middle-aged people. This weight also helps strengthen the muscles that surround and protect joints. It also prepares your body for hauling heavy loads and the impact of hiking downhill for six hours straight.

Cons: Most weight-lifting exercises don’t do a great job approximating real-life motions (of course, you can say the same thing about yoga). There’s a high risk of injury if done incorrectly or with bad form, and there’s not a lot of focus on balance (except for lunges).


Sorry sailor, but from a rational point of view, I really don’t see a clear winner—I know, I know, total cop-out. But personally, I’m going to go with weightlifting. And here’s why: After a fantastic yoga session, I feel totally relaxed and blissed out. After a weightlifting session, I feel energized and invigorated, and if you ask my wife, more energy is something I could use a lot more of in my life. I realize that this is unrelated to the pros and cons above, but my feeling gets to the heart of the matter: Do what makes you feel good. I’d rather see someone love practicing yoga three times a week than force themselves to do one weight workout each week because someone said it was good for them.

That’s all there is to it.

Over the last decade Grant Davis has been writing and editing articles about health, fitness, and nutrition. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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