Overcoming muscle imbalance is important. Muscle imbalance occurs when two groups of muscles that are designed to work with or against each other enter a state where one muscle becomes stronger (or tighter) than its opposing muscle (becomes weaker or unstable).
For example, the quadriceps and hamstrings of the knee joint perform opposite motions; an imbalance between the two could put undue stress on the joint. Muscle imbalances can be characterized by either side-to-side (right versus left) or front-to-back (agonist versus antagonist) differences in muscle length or strength.
Human movement and function requires a balance of muscle length and strength between opposing muscles surrounding a joint. … On the other hand, ‘muscle imbalance‘ occurs when opposing muscles provide different directions of tension due to tightness and/or weakness.
Common Examples of Muscle Imbalance
- Exercise Imbalance – A common muscle imbalance occurs in the muscles of the quadriceps and hamstrings. Most people work hard to strengthen the front part of their leg but often skimp when it comes to exercising the hamstring. A muscle imbalance in this area of the leg can result in a ‘popping’ sound in the knee.
- Weak Abdomen – not exercising the abdomen can lead to severe back pain because the abdomen supports the back. Think of it this way… it’s like a teeter totter that isn’t balanced because one end is shorter than the other. It will still work but not optimally.
- Poor posture – if you sit for too long in a bad position or continually stand with bad posture, your muscles adapt to your posture but in a bad way resulting in imbalances.
- Overusing a Muscle – imbalances can also result when you overuse a muscle. If you are right-handed for example and use a pull lever on the job, and only pull with the right hand, the right hand/arm will be stronger than the left which presents an imbalance. Repetitive movements in one direction can lead to muscle imbalance.
How to Improve Muscle Imbalance
Normal amounts of opposing force between muscles are necessary to keep the bones centered in the joint during motion; this would be considered muscle balance. How can muscle imbalance be improved and greater symmetry achieved? Make written notes when identifying the following and if necessary talk to your physician and/or consult with a personal trainer:
- Identify any re-occurring pain. Pain is a telling sign that something is physically off-balance. Write down any pain.
- Identify any weaknesses. When exercising are you weak on one side? For instance, when doing arm curls with free weights, is one arm weaker than the other? Write down any weaknesses.
- Improve Mobility – Immobility tightens up the muscles and reduces overall strength and agility. Avoid long periods of sitting. Get up, stretch, exercise, keep moving. Write down any limitations in movement.
- Re-distribute your body weight to the weaker side. If you are walking and find yourself leaning to one side, make a conscious effort to stand tall, hold in your stomach and straighten your vertebrae. When doing push ups or a yoga pose and you find yourself leaning or favoring the stronger muscle, adjust your weight to become more balanced.
- Increase the number of repetitions – Performing only one set of any given exercise is just a warm-up. Perform an exercise repetitively for 3 to 5 minutes (one song on your ipod or pandora). When using free weights, work out pyramid style using three different sets of weights. Choose exercises that allow you to workout opposing muscles such as a biceps/tricep routine.
Overcoming Muscle Imbalance
The first step to overcoming muscle imbalance is identifying that the imbalance exists. After that, make a conscious effort to counter-balance the weakness using the tips above.
Find a workout routine that encourages you to work out corresponding muscles in each muscle group. I find the Joyce Vedral, Ph.D. Bottoms Up! workout designed to do just that.
I am in week seven of the Bottoms Up! routine. I workout out to it at least five times a week, alternating the lower muscle groups versus upper body. At least three times a week, I add in a three or four sit-up exercises. Plus I attend four, 1-hour Jazzercise classes. My weight hasn’t dropped yet but my muscle strength is greatly improving. I truly believe the strength training is helping to improve my overall coordination and balance.
If you are also working out to Bottoms Up!, drop me a note sometime to let me now how it is going for you.
Facing MY FAT,