Strengthen your muscles and develop your core with this 20-minute stretching routine

This short workout builds muscle and connects your body and mind without equipment

Woman holding a plank in a yoga class
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The widespread belief is that lifting weights is the only way to develop strength and build muscle. Resistance training can be effective, but there are alternatives, too, like this core-strengthening 20-minute yoga routine.

Unlike weighted exercises, you don't need any equipment to practice yoga, just a grippy surface from a workout mat or one of the best yoga mats to stop you from sliding around during poses and sequences.

Although you can practice ab-focused core yoga or other routines on your own, many people enjoy a guided class, like this one from acclaimed instructor Adriene Mishler, best known as the creator of the Yoga with Adriene YouTube channel. 

At just 20 minutes, it's shorter than many traditional resistance training routines. This makes it ideal for when you're short on time and want to bring a bit of movement to your body. And it also helps stretch and strengthen your muscles.

According to Mishler, there's a "strong focus on form and function to increase flexibility, build strength, and regulate the nervous system." If you've never practiced yoga before, that's okay, as she also demonstrates and guides you through all the moves and postures.

Watch Yoga with Adriene's 20-minute routine

Yoga has been gradually shedding its reputation as a solely wellness-focused practice, with Adriene noting that "yoga is for everyone! The hardest part is showing up." There's a dual benefit, too; you build physical and mental strength in a single workout.

One study in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine looked at the effects of a 12-week yoga program across several health markers. The researchers found that yoga improved muscular strength, endurance, and cardio fitness. 

Routines like yoga for shoulder mobility can also complement your regular weights training, as they develop strength in specific areas, improve flexibility, and help you focus on your form, which is essential when you're exercising with the best adjustable dumbbells.

For many people, practicing yoga is a bit like learning how to meditate. To get the poses just right, keeping your alignment and posture intact, you need to strengthen the connection between your body and mind, just as you do in mindfulness meditation.

The perception of meditation has also changed in recent years, so much so that muscle-building movie stars like Chris Hemsworth produce guided meditation sessions to help you build mental strength, focus on your breath, and calm your mind.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.