The Hardest 20-Minute Yoga Workout You Can Do to Build Strength

Doing yoga poses like crow pose or warrior III pose can help you gain muscle and build strength.
Image Credit: Oscar Wong/Moment/GettyImages

People typically turn to yoga for increasing their flexibility rather than building strength. Sure, yoga isn't exactly associated with building ultimate muscles for bodybuilders or powerlifters, but it still does a great job activating your muscles.

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While lifting weights is ultimately what will help you build muscle, being able to lift your own body-weight is another major factor that can contribute to both muscle gain and building strength — and practicing certain yoga poses on a regular basis can help with that.

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So on the days you don't feel like lifting too heavy but still want to experience a burn, build strength and get your muscles pumping, try this 20-minute advanced yoga workout.

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How to Do This Workout

Do 15 to 20 reps per exercise back to back, rest for 1 to 2 minutes and then repeat for one more round, doing the opposite side of the body. Each inhale and exhale counts as 1 rep. Be intentional with each pose, moving slowly and with control. For a majority of these poses, the slower you go, the more you'll feel the burn.

Be sure to start your session in a calming pose — such as easy pose (Sukhasana) or child's pose (Balasana) — so you can focus on your breath and ensure that you reap the benefits of your yoga practice. End your session with a relieving pose, such as corpse pose (Savasana).

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1. Plank Pose (Phalakasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Lie face down on your belly with your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders and your feet flexed with the bottoms of your toes on the floor.
  2. Take a deep breath and press through your palms to lift yourself up into the top of a push-up position. Your body should make a straight line from your heels through your hips to the top of your head.
  3. Draw your navel toward your spine and squeeze your glutes.
  4. Look at the floor directly below your head to keep your neck in a neutral position, and breathe normally.

Tip

Give your body permission to lower your knees down to the mat if this pose becomes too challenging.

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2. Plank Pose (Phalakasana) With Mountain Climber

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Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Press up into a high plank position like you're about to do a push-up, with hands beneath the shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Feet should be shoulder-width apart and anchored to the floor on the balls of your feet.
  3. Keep your hips level and don't let your lower back sag.
  4. Bring your right knee toward your left arm, engaging your abs at the same time.
  5. Return your right knee to starting position.
  6. Bring your left knee toward your right arm, then shoot it back, switching legs at your desired pace.
  7. Keep your breath steady throughout the exercise, breathing in through your nose and out of your mouth.

Tip

This is the only yoga movement you’ll want to do as fast as possible, while also remaining safe. Being quick with this particular exercise will activate your muscles and get your heart pumping.

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3. Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana) With Push-Up

Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. From a three-legged downward facing dog, plant your right foot closer to the right side of your mat, with both hands planted on the inside of the right foot.
  2. Begin to lower your chest down toward the mat, performing a push-up while in this pose.
  3. Repeat on the opposite side.

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4. Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) With Curtsy Lunge

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Activity Yoga
Region Core and Lower Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Stand up straight with your spine in a neutral position, shoulders rolled back and down with your arms at your sides and palms facing out, in mountain pose (Tadasana).
  2. Place your weight on your left leg, allowing your left foot to stay rooted in the ground.
  3. At the same time, lift your right leg out and up behind you. Flex your toes down toward the mat, while simultaneously bringing your arms out in front of you.
  4. On an exhale, perform a curtsy lunge by slowly dropping your right leg down, crossing it behind your left leg and bending both knees into a curtsy.

5. Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana) Variation

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Activity Yoga
Region Core and Lower Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start in warrior I pose (Virabhadrasana I) by stepping your right foot forward about 3 to 4 feet and bending it in a lunge position. Keep your left leg straight behind you and turn your left heel in at about 45 degrees. Raise your arms straight up above your head.
  2. Keeping your arms lifted, reach your left arm over the back of your left ear, with your palm facing the floor.
  3. Turn your head to gaze at your left arm and imagine holding a beach ball between your hands to maintain the proper form.
  4. You should feel this stretch from your left heel to your left fingertips.

6. Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana) With Squat Pulse

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Activity Yoga
Region Core and Lower Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start standing in a wide-legged stance with both feet facing the corners of your mat and your heels turned in slightly toward each other.
  2. Lift your arms straight up into the air so your biceps are by your ears. (You also have the option to bend your elbows at 90 degrees forming cactus arms or goal posts to make this step easier.)
  3. On an exhale, take a deep bend in your knees, lowering into a squat until your thighs parallel to the ground and your hips are aligned with your knees.
  4. Perform squat pulses by pushing away from the floor as you lift up and lower down 1 to 2 inches each rep.

7. Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana) With Heel Lift

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Activity Yoga
Region Core and Lower Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start standing in a wide-legged stance with both feet facing the corners of your mat and your heels turned in slightly toward each other.
  2. Lift your arms straight up into the air so your biceps are by your ears. (You also have the option to bend your elbows at 90 degrees forming cactus arms or goal posts to make this step easier.)
  3. On an exhale, take a deep bend in your knees, lowering into a squat until your thighs parallel to the ground and your hips are aligned with your knees.
  4. Lift your left heel up off the mat while keeping your right foot rooted.
  5. Return your left heel to the mat, then lift your right heel up off the mat while keeping your left foot rooted.
  6. Repeat.

8. Lunge Pulse

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Activity Yoga
Region Core and Lower Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. Start standing up tall, then step a few feet forward with your left foot.
  2. Lift your arms straight up into the air so your biceps are by your ears and draw your shoulders down and back.
  3. Bend both knees to 90 degrees, with your back knee hovering above the ground.
  4. Hold for a beat before pushing off your front foot, returning back to standing.
  5. Repeat, pulsing in this lunge position for all reps before switching sides.

9. Crow Pose (Bakasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Core and Upper Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. From forward fold, walk your feet out to the side slightly wider than your hips.
  2. Bend your knees as you begin to lean your torso forward as you turn your hands slightly inward and widen your fingertips.
  3. Bend your elbows, resting your knees against your upper arms.
  4. Lift up onto the balls of your feet and lean your torso forward, bringing your thighs toward your chest and your shins to your upper arms.
  5. Round your back as you feel the weight transfer to your wrists.
  6. On an exhale, slowly release your feet off your mat one at time while keeping your head in a neutral position. Set your gaze at a spot on the floor in front of you.
  7. Aim to hold this pose for 1 minute.

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10. Low Plank (Chatarunga Dandasana) to Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
Goal Build Muscle
  1. From plank pose, move into low plank pose by lowering your body down toward the mat until your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Draw your abs in toward your spine to maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
  2. Keeping your elbows in by your sides, lift your head and look forward as you move into upward facing dog by pressing the tops of your feet into the mat while lifting through the top of your chest and fully extending your arms and creating an arch in your back.
  3. Push your shoulders down and back as you elongate your neck by gazing slightly upward.
  4. Transition into downward facing dog by curling your toes under and pressing them into your mat as you push your hips back and up toward the ceiling.
  5. Lower your chest toward the floor while keeping keeping your elbows straight and lifted off the floor.

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