Dr. Helen

The Rippetoe Workout vs. Yoga


I have been doing yoga (and pilates) consistently for about six months or more, three times a week and up until last week, I had been a mess. My neck hurt, I couldn’t turn my head, and even my feet hurt. I even had constant migraines. I thought if I tried harder at yoga, the pain would go away. It only got worse.

I had started doing some of the Mark Rippetoe workouts about a month ago, and used his book Starting Strength, 3rd edition to get some ideas. I am doing three sets of squats, three sets of deadlifts, three sets of lat pulldowns, and overhead presses for 5 repetitions each. It doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? But after doing that for a couple of weeks, I could see some results. Believe it or not, my back is more flexible, I don’t hurt as bad, and I feel stronger.

Last week though I decided to experiment and stop doing yoga altogether and I can now turn my head like a normal person. I did go back to one session today but the same pain came back. Damn that downward dog! That move seems to be the main source of my problem. The week I was off yoga, I did better at my weight lifting and was able to go a bit heavier because I was not as injured and sore.

Now I know why. I just read this article by Rippetoe here at PJM entitled “Why Being Sore Doesn’t Mean You’re Getting Stronger:”

Here’s the problem: the soreness doesn’t make you stronger. Soreness just makes you hurt. Lifting heavier weights makes you stronger, because that is what stronger means: the ability to produce more force. Soreness is merely a side effect of the process of using exercises that have an eccentric component. And if those exercises do not involve progressively increasing force production — lifting increasingly heavier weights — then they cannot make you stronger, even if they make you so sore you can’t walk.

I stupidly thought that I would get less sore if I kept up with the yoga and got used to it, but just the opposite happened: the more I did, the worse I got. As Rippetoe says: “Soreness is muscular inflammation, and inflammation has effects beyond just the inflamed tissue itself.” Well, I have learned my lesson. Less yoga, more Rippetoe weight training. I will keep you posted as I go along.