At the base of any muscle imbalance is a tight/strong muscle group opposing a loose/weak muscle group which can be caused by a variety of factors; both genetic and environmental. Muscle imbalances lead to injuries and overall improper body movement patterns. Imbalanced muscles can pull ligaments, and bones out of alignment which can create joint problems long-term. While muscle imbalances, left unchecked, can cause a multitude of issues, with diligence and time they are easily fixed.
As mentioned above, there are multiple factors, including genetics, that lead to muscle imbalances. Let’s examine the main culprits.
- Sitting/Standing predominantly on one side: To read more about the negative aspects of sitting, click here https://jnicholsfitness.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/sitting-more-than-just-a-pain-in-the-a/
- Sitting or standing on one side causes one side to tighten and the other side to get looser and weaker. This causes a tilt in the hips and will most likely lead to back pain
- Crossing legs with same leg on top
- Along with sitting causes bilateral (side to side) imbalance. This is actually an easy fix with conscious effort. By crossing the opposite leg, one can begin to fix the problem. By pressing down on the inside of the knee of the crossed leg, one can begin the stretching process while seated…finally a good reason to sit
- Sleeping on the same side
- Variety keeps the muscles from tightening on one side or the other over time
- Carrying bags/items on the same shoulder or in the same hand
- Again, with conscious effort, an easy change. Give the right and left sides equal time.
- Overtraining one muscle group and undertraining the antagonist muscle group
- Uppercross Syndrome, common in “bros” is one example of this imbalance. An overtraining of the chest, presumably to look cool at the beach, and lack of back training pulls the shoulders forward and down. Always be wary to train opposing muscle groups (unless strength is severely lacking in one group and needs advanced attention) with the same volume
- Always leading with dominant limb/getting up and down in the same method.
- For example, I noticed that when going to the ground I would ALWAYS put my left foot back first, twist to my left and come to the ground. Reversing the process getting up. This led to QL and glute tightness on my left side. Again, CONSCIOUSLY, I am now getting up and down in the opposite manner.
With all these unconscious, habitual events that led to chronic muscle imbalance, what is one to do to remedy the situation? Luckily, the solution is fairly easy, it will merely take time to correct the imbalance.
- Get a movement analysis
- A properly trained wellness professional can help find and provide corrective exercises for individual muscle imbalances
- Stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weak muscles/loose joints
- Incorporate foam rolling and mobility drills. Click link for examples.
- Yoga and Pilates are both great forms of exercise to correct muscle imbalances
- If strength training, be diligent about training volume for antagonistic muscle groups
- Avoid using machines as the dominant side will often move more of the weight
- Incorporate single arm and leg exercises, with emphasis placed on the lagging muscle group
- Consciously change sleeping, sitting, standing, etc. habits. It may take some time to break the habit, but you will notice a change
Many of these things may be habit, but with conscious effort can be changed. Start paying attention to your movement patters, how you sit, the way you sleep, how you train; being aware is the first step to fixing the imbalance. Stretch the tight muscle group, strengthen the weak muscle group, and train opposing muscle groups with the same volume. With time and diligence muscle imbalances can be corrected and possible injuries can be avoided or eliminated. Trust me, your body will thank you.