Find Your Edge to Build Muscle and Endurance

Building strength and endurance can be two goals that yoga practitioners may seek. New research in muscle building supports the yoga concept of “find your edge” to reach these two goals.

Yoga instructors will often ask students who are in a pose to “find your edge”. It means situating yourself in a pose to a point past your comfort zone but not to the point of injury. This edge is thought to be where you will get maximum benefit in strength and endurance. When you “find your edge” at the end of the pose your muscles should feel fatigued.

Front weights

New research from McMaster University is supporting the concept of “find your edge”. Researchers are challenging the traditional workout wisdom, suggesting that lifting lighter weights many times is as efficient as lifting heavy weights for fewer repetitions.

It is the latest in a series of studies that started in 2010, contradicting the decades-old message that the best way to build muscle is to lift heavy weights.

Fatigue is the great equalizer here,” says Stuart Phillips, senior author on the study and professor in the Department of Kinesiology. “Lift to the point of exhaustion and it doesn’t matter whether the weights are heavy or light.”

Researchers recruited two groups of men for the study—all of them experienced weight lifters—who followed a 12-week, whole-body protocol. One group lifted lighter weights (up to 50 per cent of maximum strength) for sets ranging from 20 to 25 repetitions. The other group lifted heavier weights (up to 90 per cent of maximum strength) for eight to 12 repetitions. Both groups lifted to the point of failure.

Researchers analyzed muscle and blood samples and found gains in muscle mass and muscle fibre size, a key measure of strength, were virtually identical.

At the point of fatigue, both groups would have been trying to maximally activate their muscle fibres to generate force,” says Phillips, who conducted the work with graduate students and co-authors Rob Morton and Sara Oikawa.

For the ‘mere mortal’ who wants to get stronger, we’ve shown that you can take a break from lifting heavy weights and not compromise any gains,” says Phillips. “It’s also a new choice which could appeal to the masses and get people to take up something they should be doing for their health.”

What this means to yoga practitioners everywhere is that you will build muscle and increase endurance if you “find your edge” in every pose in every session.

The findings are published online in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

A full copy of the study can be found at


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