8 Yoga Poses To Build Upper Body Strength

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // November 9, 2022

Yoga is amazing for opening up tight muscles, relieving aches and pains, and helping you breathe a little calmness into your day. But ask any smart yogi around, and they’ll also tell you yoga is an amazing way to build upper body strength.

In fact, many people have put aside their dumbbells and picked up a yoga mat as their strength-building workout of choice. Check out a regular yogi sometimes, and you’ll see the proof: strong biceps, triceps, shoulders, and a sculpted back—every upper body muscle is put to the test as you move through a yoga practice.


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    Why Yoga Is The Perfect Strength Workout

    Why does yoga work so well to strengthen your muscles? Because it relies on one of the best tools around for strength training: your own body weight!

    Bodyweight is challenging to lift and generally exceeds what you would choose if you picked up a random pair of dumbbells. In addition, bodyweight exercises allow for more functional training and utilize many muscles in chorus with one another.

    Bodyweight exercises don’t beat up your joints as much as traditional weight training exercises do, either. They get you to move through a bigger range of motion and improve not just your muscle strength but your muscle endurance, too!

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    Upper Body Yoga Workout

    This upper-body yoga workout was designed to teach you how to use yoga to build upper-body strength. 

    • Try to hold each post for at least 30 seconds at first. This gives you an opportunity to evaluate—over time—how much you are improving your strength as you practice.
    • As you become stronger, increase your hold by 10 seconds each time.
    • Be sure to read the descriptions carefully, paying attention to the details of your form. Doing these poses properly is essential.


    Common well beyond the walls of yoga studios, the plank extends to almost all parts of the fitness world. Why? Because it works.

    A plank is a solid upper body and core strength move and the benefits are amazing. By holding you body up and learning to breathe through it as it becomes harder, your arms, shoulders upper back and core are all strengthened. Best of all? Your progress is measurable.

    Hold for 30 seconds if you can and continue to measure how long you are able to keep good form in your plank. You’ll see a difference soon!


    Take a plank, bring it closer to the ground, and you’ve got yourself a chaturanga. Known for its incredible core challenge, this move also targets your triceps, biceps and shoulders for a tank-top-worthy upper body!

    Keep your elbows close to your side to be sure your triceps are doing the work.

    Upward Dog

    Once you perform chaturanga for the length of time you are able, flip your feet under and use your arms to press your body upward and hold that pose for a while.

    Be sure to lift from your belly as well, but concentrate on your arm and shoulder strength to keep you lifted.


    Moves that strengthen your upper back muscles are hard to find, but dolphin is a great one! The dolphin pose is similar to a downward dog, but with the forearms on the floor instead of hands.

    By pressing your forearms into the floor you use all of your upper back muscles to press your chest toward your thighs and your heels toward the floor.

    Reverse Plank 

    Reverse plank is a pose that strengthens the shoulder muscles, arms, and upper back while stretching your chest and working your core strength, including the important muscles in the lower back.

    This is a very unique pose that relies on isometric strength from head to toe. If it is too difficult to hold in a straight line, you can easily bend your knees for a reverse tabletop and receive similar benefits.

    Side Plank Scoop

    Side Plank Scoop is known for the amazing way it sculpts your obliques. But this pose is a huge challenge for the arms, shoulders and upper back as well. Not only do these muscles stabilize you while you hold your body weight, but also while you are in motion during the scoop. This is a great challenge.

    Side Plank is the place to begin. Once you have that pose conquered, try adding the scoop. If you have any trouble with the full motion, place your bottom knee on the mat for support.


    Tripod is a fantastic balance pose for yogis. It’s the pose that gets you started and teaches you arm balance using proper core strength. The advantage of the tripod is that you use your head on the floor in addition to your hands which gives you one extra “leg” of support.

    The upper body works like crazy, especially while the core tries to stabilize. Once you conquer the tripod, move right into crow pose!

    Crow Pose

    Crow pose has all the elements of a Tripod, but by removing your head from the floor, your upper body muscles work overtime to keep you lifted.

    This is a challenging pose you can work up to, but once you do, you’ll start to see a stronger, more sculpted upper body soon—all thanks to your yoga practice.

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