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I've always been leery of weights - it takes me months of very steady progress before I feel at home with them. By comparison: Yoga and Cardio come naturally to me. The only time I did weights seriously (and by that I mean as a supplement to my cardio stuff) was in my twenties.

I also tend to get injured with weights easily with long recovery times. I've also had two minor back surgeries in the last 20 years - disk tucks.

I however, feel that, as I get older, I really need to add weights as I feel my muscle loss is now no laughing matter.

I do hot yoga 4 times a week.

I'm not really interested in bulking up - I just want to loose weight, get in better shape and look and feel better.

So the question is - Is adding weight training to my yoga routine still a good idea? and if so any important notes that I should know about.

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The fact that you've had back surgery doesn't change the basics of my answer here, except that you need to add weight slowly (once a month?), make sure you're using perfect form, and instead of getting form checks from a friend or the internet, find a CrossFit or Starting Strength coach to check your form in each lift. –  Dave Liepmann May 7 '13 at 13:06

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The key to lifting injury free is to keep the intensity manageable and the form correct. The big 4 lifts: squat, bench, deadlift, and overhead press are excellent staples that give you a lot of benefit for the work you do. However, if you are starting out you may want to work up to them. The posterior chain is important, and one of the first things we lose when we sit in chairs all the time.

I might start with this for a few weeks to build some base strength:

  • Rounded back extensions. 4x8 at body weight. Lower your body so the back is rounded, and lead up with your shoulders. Try to work up to 5x10.
  • Lat pull downs. 4x8 at whatever feels challenging, but you can still do with good form. Work up to 5x10.
  • Lunges. 50 reps total (25 each leg). Start body weight, and when that feels really easy use dumbbells at your side.
  • Incline press. 3x5 at a weight you can control for the whole movement. Bring the bar down so that it is parallel with your chin, and then back up. Bringing the bar lower won't make you that much stronger, and has the potential of hurting your shoulder. Be conservative and start light--even with just the bar.

This lets you build some foundational strength that will be necessary for performing the big 4. It also lets you do something that isn't quite as technical to get started. Once you feel confident with that, I would recommend moving on to something like Wendler 5-3-1. Your stated goal is to at least maintain your muscle, and bring back some of what you lost--not try to get as strong as possible as quickly as possible.

Wendler 5-3-1 only increases weight once a month, and keeps the weight manageable with weights you should be able to handle if you choose an easy starting point. It has the concept of AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) on the top set of the main exercise for the day, and that is AMRAP with good form. If your form starts to break down, stop the set.

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It seems like the barbell row is a staple as well. –  Doc May 8 '13 at 17:24
    
I'm partial to the one-arm dumbbell row--less stress on the lower back and it hits a number of helping areas as well. –  Berin Loritsch May 8 '13 at 17:57
    
True, in the context of the question a movement that reduces low back stress is necessary. Personally I would choose a lever row or a barbell bench row and supplement with a reverse hyper-extensions, but I guess that's a matter of preference. I guess the point I was making is that for all around strength training, shouldn't one perform a "big 5" rather than a "big 4"? –  Doc May 8 '13 at 18:07
    
Back Extentions is the same thing as reverse hyper-extensions (different name). The only place I've seen "big 5" referred to is with bodybuilding. Since getting big isn't one of the stated goals, I suggested something that sits between functional strength and power lifting. It should do what the OP is asking for. –  Berin Loritsch May 8 '13 at 20:35
  • Medical Clearance:

    I'm assuming that your surgeon has given you the ok for weight training. Given that you have had back surgery and have previously injured yourself using weights, you may want to check with your physical therapist for an evaluation of any muscle weaknesses or limitations of motion that you may have so that you can address these before adding a load to your spine.

  • Stabilization Exercises:

    Sometimes the deeper control muscles (such as the multifidi) are weak and do not help to protect the spine. A stabilization exercise program that includes abdominal muscle control, esp. the transverse abdominus, multifidus, glutes and back extensors will help to prepare you for adding weights to your exercise routine. Before the term "core" strengthening became over utilized, the term meant learning to use these core muscles to control the position of your spine in a stable position before you began adding movement of the arms and legs.

    This stabilization exercise program describes some of the stabilization exercises, including how to contract the transverse abs and multifidus, how to maintain control in functional positions, while adding arm and leg movements, and how to progress to more difficult stabilization exercises using a swiss ball. If you have good control with these exercises, then you are more likely to be successful with strength training.

  • Strength Training:

    You may find that you can do resistance training more comfortably with resistance bands before you are comfortable with weights. But whether you use weights or bands for strength training, having a therapist checkout your form and assure that you are stabilizing your spine well may help to keep you injury free.

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