Get Stronger With Yoga Strength Foundations Challenge

As a committed male yogi I often asked questions about yoga and strength. Like which yoga is best for strength? Does yoga make you stronger? Or can you build muscle doing yoga? The answers to those questions are not straightforward but there are many ways that yoga can make you stronger and build strength foundations.

Men get stronger doing yoga by increasing their full body strength. Yoga is a form of body resistance training and the poses are body weight exercises. Full body poses like chair, plank and yoga push-ups which require full muscle activation and engagement are the most effective for building strength.

Finding a yoga program that is focused predominantly on making you stronger is quite difficult. Most yoga programs are more focused on flexibility and mobility. The Strength Foundations course from Man Flow Yoga was created to develop strength through yoga for men. It is a beginner friendly program ideal for men who want to get stronger and fitter in a relatively short amount of time.

The Strength Foundations Challenge

Dean Pohlman (creator of Man Flow Yoga) designed a 6 week challenge. It combines the popular workout program Strength Foundations course with a brand new course, Strength Foundations Workout Series. 

Combining the courses provides the variety of the challenger to cater for a wider range of the Man Flow Yoga membership. In weeks 2,4 and 6 you have the option to repeat the Strength Foundations course workout from the previous or do a Beyond Strength Foundations workout.

Strength Foundation_workout table

The workouts from Beyond Strength Foundations are based directly on the corresponding lesson in the Strength Foundations Course. (Ex: Workout #5 from Beyond Strength Foundations covers the same movements and target areas as Lesson #5 from the Strength Foundations Course, but is more difficult skill-wise and more intense).

Why a Challenge?

Challenges are community-led workout programs. Every week day, you’ll have a daily workout to complete, and you’ll receive an email every morning to help hold you accountable and keep you motivated. You’ll be inspired knowing that the entire Man Flow Yoga Community – thousands of people all over the world – will also be doing these workouts at the same time as you.

Equipment Required

For Weeks 1 and 2 required equipment includes a yoga mat, 2 cork yoga blocks, and a yoga strap. For Week 3 and beyond, you’ll also need resistance bands.

The Challenge Diary

I recorded the daily workouts of the challenge in a diary. Each day I detail what each workout consisted, length and what level of intensity they are. In addition, there are details of the purpose of each workout and what areas of the body it’s focused on. Moreover, I discussed some of the poses and exercises, tips from Dean and how the workout challenged me physically.

Strength Foundations Challenge – Week 1

The first week’s workout of the challenge introduces the importance of breathing, core engagement and muscle activation to building strength through yoga. Connecting breathing with movement helps to develop muscle awareness. This is a key concept of yoga and when you focus on it you are less likely to just “go through the motions” when practising.

Day 1 – Breathing & Muscle Activation Basics

This Yoga Strength Foundation course focuses on increasing and improving muscle activation. Doing yoga with more active muscle activation will help you get stronger. Throughout the workout you are encouraged to work on your breathing. Start with a three count (three breaths in, three breaths out) then progressing to a four or five count. 

The workout begins with exercises that are focused on active mobility and muscle engagement. We activate the core by lying in crunch position and pushing the hands into the thighs intensely for thirty seconds. We continue with more floor based muscle activation and engagements exercise which will be a major part of the warm up phase of many workouts in the challenge.

Day 2 – Breath and Movement with Balance Essentials

This Man Flow Yoga strength foundations workout continues to focus on breathing and core activation. It begins with many of the muscle activation exercises from day 1. The exercises are quite simple but Dean encourages you to push yourself as the warm-up is the workout. I noticed once I started pushing myself in exercises for hip activation and core strengthening I got quite sweaty!

The second part of the workout focused on building strength for balancing. We started with Mountain pose and standing side stretches and back bends. Dean stressed the importance of performing these poses without tension in the neck and shoulders but opening your chest. For the standing side stretches we also focused on ab engagement and keeping the core tight. 

The final poses were single leg standing balance postures which we held for one minute on each side. These required more hip activation to maintain the posture. You also concentrate on merging breath with movement and developing more muscle awareness.

Day 3 – Glute Strength & Movement Basics

This is quite an intensive core and hips workout, building on the muscle engagement from the previous workouts. It is another workout where you are encouraged to push yourself from the start to the finish.

Working on the same muscles on consecutive days is a key element of building strength through yoga. As you work on the same muscles consecutive days those poses you will do will get more challenging. All yoga poses have variations allowing you to modify based on your ability. By progressing from the easiest variations to the harder ones you will progressively build your strength.

There were some new poses in this workout including Boat pose. Dean demonstrated three variations of the pose so that you can keep good posture whatever you level is. Another new pose was donkey kicks which are great for glute and hamstring engagement. This pose was done against a wall then followed by doing a downward dog against the wall. Performing the pose against the wall teaches proper engagement when you perform it on the ground. 

Day 4 – Core & Hip Muscle Engagement in Yoga Essentials

Today’s strength foundations workout kicks off with exercises to isolate specific muscle groups and cause muscle fatigue. The consequence of this is to help you build endurance and get stronger. We then moved to more essential yoga postures, integrating the activated muscles from the beginning of the workout into full body exercises.

Dean reiterated to always pay close attention to your form and avoid “going through the motions”. The point of this course is to help you develop new strength, and that doesn’t happen by doing things the way you’re accustomed to. Remember to push yourself the entire time. Try to learn something new about your body.

Day 5 – Twists, Planks, Core, & More

Today’s workout is a challenging one designed to strengthen your core in multiple ways. The goal is to Increase core and hip activation while practising basic exercises in new ways. The focus of the workout is on slow, controlled movement including twists. As always, be MINDFUL of movement. Even though many of the exercises and poses were familiar in this workout, it offered an opportunity to do them in new ways. Doing this allows you to learn something new about your body.

The workout started with side planks with a reminder to keep the hips lifted. It was followed by Boat pose with the option to do the variation with legs lifted, shins parallel to the ground. To achieve this you need to engage your core and activate your hips. The first twisting exercise was focused on using your abs to twist from one side to another. Other twisting exercises in the workout were lunging and standing lunge twists. Dean’s advice when doing twists is to focus on pulling your belly button to spine and building core strength through twisting

Strength Foundations Challenge – Week 2

The workouts I did this week were from the Beyond Strength Foundations course.

Day 6 – Intermediate Core Strength & Breathing

This workout is focused on breathing and core strength. The goal is to maintain good breathing technique, core and muscle engagement while doing full body yoga postures.  At the start of the workout we perform core exercises on the floor. These exercises included reverse crunches where we connected our breathing to the movements. Maximum core engagement as you exhale, active abs as you inhale maintaining slow controlled breathing.

A new exercise introduced was abductor holds that are quite intense! Other poses in this workout were bird dogs, bird dog crunches, baby cobra, child’s pose, standing side bends, chair and runners lunge.

Day 7 – Core Strength, Breathing, & Balance

This strength foundations workout starts with some core activation techniques on the ground before progressing to standing balance postures.The core activation exercise starts with a basic but effective hand to thigh pose. They are followed by leg levers, connecting the movement to your breathing. Inhale to switch, exhale to hold for one breath keeping your abs tight.

Other poses in core activation part of the workout were recline twist, bridge, single leg bridge.Full body exercise includes heel raises, high lunge, single leg balance, standing side bend on one leg, squat holds (hovering on one leg). All of these exercises focused on balancing which is a really good way to identify which side of your body is stronger. 

Day 8 – Strength Foundations for Hips, Core, & Breathing

This workout is focused on core, hip strength and breathing. It begins with hip strengthening exercises on the ground before building up to full body exercises. The core exercises include reverse crunches, supine bicycles and boat pose which you do while maintaining good breathing technique. 

The full body exercises and postures are plank, donkey kicks, downward facing dog, chair, high lunge. The final part of the workout was a single leg balance with hip abductor movement followed by a deep squat. By doing the core and hip engagement, glute work and deep breathing helps you go deeper in your squats.

Day 9 – Intense Core Work & Full Body Strength

The intensity for this strength foundations workout has definitely increased and would be quite tough for beginners. There is quite a lot of core work at the start of the workout. From there it moves onto exercises for the hips, wrist and shoulders and full body exercises. The intensity comes from pushing really hard for a few seconds on each pose before moving to the next one.

The core exercises are the same as Day 8 but you are encouraged by Dean to push really hard for all of the exercises. For the hips there is new exercise. Seated leg lifts against a wall are great for isolating your hips and building strength there. Using the wall keeps your back flat. Even though you are lifting the leg for only 20 seconds, at maximum intensity you will really experience a real burn.

The full body exercise including different variations of plank. Forearm and planks on block helps to strengthen your shoulders and wrists more than regular planks. There were also balance planks with alternative hand, foot and both off the ground. The workout ends with a downward facing dog and deep squat with arms overhead..

Day 10 – Twists, Core, and Hips

A full body workout focused on your core and hips with lots of twisting movement thrown in as well. The workout begins with side planks and side plank progressions. You have the option to do the side planks with knees down or stacked depending on your core strength. Resting on your forearm and hugging that toward your feet adds more oblique engagement.

A bridge walk was a new exercise included in this workout which is great for glute and hamstring engagement.The next part of the workout was planks with one arm one leg and fallen leg planks. The twisting exercises were low and high lunge twists where Dean use blocks to get deeper into the twists.

Strength Foundations Challenge – Week 3

The workouts in week 3 focused on some new areas to build all over body strength. There were more exercises where blocks and resistance bands  are required. This adds another level of resistance, and allows you to target muscles you can’t hit with just your bodies.

Day 11 – Resistance Bands & Block Work for Hip, Core, & Ankle Strength

The workout begins with a number of exercises where a basic resistance band is used to develop strength, stability and endurance. They are very easy to use and great for muscle activation. Using the band to donkey kicks challenges the engagement a lot more. It also helps with strengthening the outer hip and glutes. 

If you want to better lunges and squats, run faster or jump higher or improve your balance these are great exercises. Further exercises in this workout concentrated on strengthening the ankles, calves. The workout ends with squat holds and walks with and without the resistance band.

Day 12 – Strength, Endurance, and Muscle Activation for Hips, Core and Side Body

The main areas of focus for this workout is hip engagement and then side engagement of your torso. Strengthening and improving the mobility of these areas is incredibly useful for getting better at balancing, reducing back pain or discomfort, and preventing injury.

The workout begins on the ground with some bridge and single leg poses to activate your glutes, hamstrings and hips. These are followed by seated hip strengthening exercises for the hip flexors. By turning out your toes 45 degrees you will engage your VMO muscle which is really important for MCL stability.

Dean really encourages you to push and fatigue the muscle. Reaching the point of fatigue is key to building strength as that’s a sign that you have broken down the muscle. When your body rebuilds that muscle it will make it stronger. The poses performed to strengthen the side of your torso were standing back and side bend, standing figure four stretch, down-dog on the wall and chair pose.

Day 13 – Active Hamstring Mobility & Engagement for Forward Folds

In this workout Dean covers one of the biggest issues that exist in yoga today. Forward folds are difficult for many people and to do them correctly requires significant attention to detail. The way most people perform them is quite passive so this workout focuses on doing them with active mobility and muscle engagement. If you have tight hamstrings, a block or two is very useful.

The workout starts on the ground with ab activation exercises including reverse crunches, boat pose and single leg reverse crunch. This is followed by standing back bends, high lunges, down dog on the wall and squat hold to warm up for the forward folds Moving on to hamstring stretches through Warrior I and pyramid pose. The remainder of the workout is spent on performing forward folds with good form and muscle engagement.

Day 14 – Strong Back-bends – Full Body Engagement in Spinal Extension

This workout is all about performing strong back-bends. One of the biggest misconceptions about back-bend is that they only focus on your back. The poses and exercises in the workout focus on integrating your full body into doing a proper back-bend. The goal is to maintain the back-bend within your active range of motion.

The workout begins with some resistance band exercise to activate the core, hips and thighs. You want to engage your inner thighs when doing back-bends because it helps with stability in your core and supports your spine. So there are a lot of core exercises in this workout! The other exercises and pose performed in the workout are low lunge, chair, standing back-bend, forearm plank and full locust.

Day 15 – Hamstring Mobility & Core Strength for Down-dogs

Another workout focused on core and hamstrings that then gets integrated into a down-dog. Down-dog (full name “downward facing dog”) is probably the most well known yoga pose but it is quite hard to perform correctly. It’s challenging, requiring significant hamstring mobility, core strength, and even upper body strength .

The workout begins with exercises using a light resistance band (green or yellow) to warm up and activate the core, hips, hamstrings and glutes. These exercises are abduction holds, clams, donkey kicks and supine marches. For all the exercises you inhale and exhale with your movements.

To prepare for the Down-dog we do even more poses to activate pretty much all your major muscles groups! Boat pose, wide legged forward fold, squat hold, standing back-bend, high lunge, plank, cobra, staff pose and Down-dog on the wall. The last part of the workout is performing a Down-dog with the correct alignment and form.

Strength Foundations Challenge – Week 4

The workouts I did this week were from the Beyond Strength Foundation course.

Day 16 – Band Strengthening for Hips, Core, & Shoulders

This workout involves a lot of resistance band work. One resistance band will need to be tied into a loop, so it can go around your legs. The focus area of the body for this workout are the hip and shoulders and of course core,

The workout begins with an active lunge and doing resistance band pull aparts. Here you are pulling the band apart to activate the shoulders and upper back. Next is a forearm plank with a looped resistance band around the ankles to do some banded hip work. This is done by moving your leg out to the side and up and down. Here you are working your outer thighs and glutes. Focus on maintaining good form on the plank. Another exercise performed with the resistance band is a squat hold and reverse squat walk. This is followed by some calf raises on a block.

The resistance band work continues with hip abduction stretches with a band around the ankles balancing on a block. This exercise is great for hip extension and flexion. This is followed by a deep squat and reverse squat walk with the resistance band around the ankles. The final part of the workout involves upper body work with the resistance band. A lat pull-down with resistance band pinned works the upper back, shoulders and core. A very intense strength building workout that works many areas of your body.

Day 17 – Strength & Endurance Burner for Core, Hips & Side Body

An intense intermediate level workout focused on core strength and side strengthening. There are lots of poses that specifically target the sides but they are also full body exercises. In the workout you work on your ankles, hips, knees, shoulders and spine. You will need two blocks and a strap. You should find this workout challenging even though it is low impact.

The workout begins with some core work for muscle activation. The exercises are supine bicycles, bridge, single leg bridge, recline twist, side plank and cat cow. Next is some hip abductor exercises, followed by standing side bends and back-bends. The intensity increases as your work on high lunges with side bend, Warrior I and Reverse Warrior. The final sequence of pose is Warrior II, side angle pose, reverse warrior and runners lunge with a twist.

Day 18 – Slow Burn Yoga for Hamstring Mobility & Core Strength

Another challenging workout with some new exercises focusing on isometric strengthening. You will be working on active mobility focusing on hamstring and shoulders and also core strength. It will be beneficial to have two blocks and a strap available.

After some dynamic core warm up exercises that included some Pilates type movement that are great for strength building. The main phase of the workout was a dynamic sequence that featured: Warrior 1, Pyramid, Air-plane, single leg standing balance, chair, forward fold, standing back-bend and wide leg forward fold with arms raised.

Day 19 – The Super Strong Spine & Core Workout

The focus of this workout is strong back-bends and strengthening your spine. It is still a full body workout but the emphasis is on developing spinal strength that will improve your posture. In the dynamic core warm up, Dean reminds you to focus on your breathing and connecting them with your movements. The sequence ends with a child’s pose with a thoracic twist. It is very effective in opening up the mid and upper back and increasing the range of motion in your back.

 The back strengthening phase of the workout begins with bird dog and bird dog crunches. Other poses and exercises included cobra, plank, runners lunge, high lunge with a twist and back-bend, air-plane, standing split, deep squat, standing back-bend. The sequence alternated from back bend, neutral to forward fold movements which helps you work deeper into the back bends. The last pose of the workout is Sphinx which is an active resting pose,

Day 20 – Down-dog Strength & Mobility

The focus of this workout is strength and mobility for Down-dog. So lots of poses to strengthen and stretch your hamstrings, hips and core.

Following the core warm up, the main phase of the workouts begins with Warrior I and pyramid pose. A strap is used in Warrior I to help open the upper chest. After holding a chair pose for 30 seconds, you move from high lizard to a deep squat. Moving on to Staff pose which is a great for practising correct form and alignment for Down-dog. The final part of the workout is a Down-dog sequence which includes forearm plank, cobra, donkey kicks, high lunge with a back-bend. 

Strength Foundations Challenge – Week 5

The intensity of workouts really stepped up another level this week. Lots of resistance band exercises and some new poses that are challenging. This week showcases the variety of uniqueness of the strength foundations course.

Day 21 – Upper-Back and Shoulders for Scapular Stability

In this workout, the focus on strength and mobility in your upper-back and shoulders, and specifically improving your scapular stability. The workout starts with passive stretches to open your chest and shoulders, progresses to exercises to isolate your upper-back, and then moves into an in-depth instruction and practice of the yoga push-up.

The workout begins by opening the chest and shoulders with a down-dog on the wall. This followed by a pec stretch against the wall. Next are some prone ground Y & T, rowing and holding foam roller or block exercises to strengthen the shoulders. Dean encourages you to push hard and increase the intensity in your upper body and back. Other poses and exercises in this workout are eagle arms, mountain, plank and chaturanga (yoga push up). 

Day 22 – Hip Mobility and Glute Strength for Warrior 2 Stance & Airplane

In this workout, you work on the hip mobility and glute engagement necessary for a strong Warrior 2 posture and proper hip alignment in Airplane pose. You’ll need 2 blocks and a sweatshirt or pillow for this workout.

You will see results in a greatly-strengthened lower-body, dramatically increased hip flexibility, and increased stability in the lower-back and knees. There are plenty of lower body poses in this workout including, boat, bridge, single leg bridge, butterfly, pigeon and some new unique hip abductor exercises. These prepare your body to perform Warrior 2 and Airplane with correct alignment and form. Your leg muscles get a great workout so much that mine shook at the end and felt a real burn in the hips!

Day 23 – Band, Wall, & Full Body Exercises for Upper-Back & Shoulders

An intense upper body-focused workout using a resistance band and wall exercises to strengthen your upper-back and shoulders. Additionally it is a quite complex routine. You’ll need 2 blocks, a light resistance band and a wall. 

This workout addresses scapular stability, improves shoulder mobility, and strengthens the muscles in your upper-body significantly.The workout starts on the ground working on shoulder strength. The resistance band and blocks are used as resistance for shoulder lifts. There are more new upper body exercises using the resistance band and lower body exercises using the wall. 

Day 24 – Core, Hip, & Ankle Muscle Activation for Better, More Effective Balancing

Another fiery workout for your lower body and core.This workout increases muscle activation in all areas required for effective balancing, including your legs, thighs, hips, and core. You perform a series of challenging balance postures to improve strength, endurance, and mobility. Make sure to focus on the active mobility required of each body part to ensure an incredible workout.

Day 25 – Full Body Strength & Mobility for Dolphin, Yoga Push-ups, & Up-dog

This is a challenging upper-body focused workout focusing on total body strength in dolphin, yoga push-ups, and culminating in updog. Expect to Increase shoulder strength and mobility, build muscle in your torso, and improve full body engagement. This is probably the most challenging workout from the Strength Foundations Course. It is a workout I regularly come back to when I really want to be challenged.

Strength Foundations Challenge – Week 6

The final week of the challenge but the workouts don’t get any easier!

Day 26 – Yoga Push-Ups, Full Chest, Shoulder, & Upper-back Strength & Mobility

In this medium length, upper body workout the focus is push up strength and shoulder mobility. You will need 2 blocks and a strap. The workout starts on the ground with an active child poses and progresses into prone T, W and Y shoulder and back lift holds for 30 seconds. The goal in these exercises is to open your back, chest and shoulders. Next pose is a forearm plank before repeating the prone T, W and Y lift holds but this time holding the blocks. This dynamic warm up concluded with one arm/side planks.

The upper body exercises begin with rows, pull downs and triceps extension in a low lunge. The purpose of these movements is to get the upper back active and engaged. This is followed by standing side bends. Next is chair pose while squeezing a block between your elbows to activate muscles in your chest and challenge your shoulder mobility. This workout has plenty of shoulder mobility and upper back strengthening exercises. Strength is built through air resistance exercises focusing on activating pulling muscles. 

Day 27 – Core, Glutes & Thighs Burner for External Hip Rotation Mobility

Hip strength and external hip rotation are the main focus of this workout. There is a lot of glute work but you also work on your ankle, core and hips in this intense workout. The goal is to build strength and active mobility.You will need 2 blocks and a strap.

Many of the exercises in this workout are very familiar from previous workouts. The warm up includes bridge, bridge walk, reverse crunches and a new exercise of hip abductor raises over a block. The main phase of the workout is an intense sequence of pose and exercises. They were high lunge, standing side and back bends balancing on one leg, standing one leg balance, chair pose, Warrior I, Warrior II, pyramid, airplane and half moon. The workout ends with a haka circle which is a kind of active squat. 

Day 28 – Intense Scapular Strength & Shoulder Mobility

Another intense workout focusing on strong back bends and upper back and shoulders. Although many of the exercises are full body so your lower body and core will be challenged as well. The final goal of this workout is to build strength to finish performing dolphin and superman poses which are very intense and require lots of strength. You will need 2 blocks and a resistance band.

The workout begins in a low lunge doing resistance band pull aparts. These are very effective at warming up your core, hips and upper back. Another goal of the workout is efficiency so Dean encourages you to rake up the intensity as fast as possible. So the workout continues with intense planks, forearm and side planks followed by prone T, W and Y back and shoulder lifts holding blocks and resistance bands.

The standing up phase of the workout includes performing high lunge and airplane with a resistance band and chair pose. The workout concludes with the following sequence: plank, cobra, downdog, forearm plank, full locust, dolphin and superman! Wow that was Intense!

Day 29 – Intermediate Ankle Strength & Balance

The penultimate workout of the challenge is an intense balance workout. For the warm up routine you work on ankle and hip mobility so you can perform the balance posture to your maximum capability. The second half of the workout is a balancing posture and transitions sequence. It is a medium length so you are able to push yourself throughout the whole workout. You will need 2 blocks.

The warm up starts on the ground with reverse crunches and flutter kicks, bridge, one leg bridge, boat, plank, downdog and finishes with a deep squat. Next is some ankle mobility and balance work, one leg standing on the block (cork or wood best for this exercise). The balance postures and transition sequence performed are tree pose, standing one leg balance, dancer, chair, eagle, airplane, Warrior III, Warrior II, half moon and wide legged forward fold.

Day 30 – Yoga & Upper-Body Strength Work

The final workout is fully focused on upper body strength with yoga. The goal is to have the strength to do an Up dog and yoga push with good form and alignment. It is a short workout but the intensity is very high. You will need 2 blocks and a strap.

The workout begins with familiar exercise on the ground to warm up your core and hips. Next is T, W and Y back and shoulder lifts holding blocks followed with plank and low plank holds. The intensity continues with high lunge with rows and back bends and then back bends holding and pressing into a block. Planks to elbow holds are the transition to the final part of the routine. Updog to downdog, one arm downdog, deep squat with arms overhead and then multiple slow controlled push ups. That was a really sweaty workout to complete the challenge.

Time For You to Take Action

Completing this challenge has reminded of why Man Flow Yoga is a great platform to do yoga and stay fit and healthy. It believes that getting and staying in shape should be a simple process. By doing the right exercises and investing 20 to 30 minutes every other day you will see great results. If your goal is to stay healthy, injury-free and mobile, MFY workouts are exactly what you need.

Man Flow Yoga is full of great content. The Workout Library currently has more than 250 videos over twenty minutes in length. It allows you to do workouts with different skill levels and target different areas of the body. You can also select workout to target a particular fitness focus or intensity level. Membership offers great value with the most costly membership being cheaper than the cost of a single yoga class!

Recent Posts