Muscle Imbalances Can Wreck One’s Health and Workout

April 3, 2014 in STSMPT

Our muscular system is designed with flexors and extensors, agonists and antagonists. It’s designed to be a system in balance, but for many of us this is not the case. Even people with great strength or endurance often create muscle imbalances for themselves. These imbalances can lead to restricted range of motion, joint instability, lesser athletic performance, nagging pains, chronic pain, and overuse injury. Desk jobs obviously have people constantly flexing forward, so adding extension exercises such as rows to your routine can be healthy. Avid exercisers have a tendency to do what they are good at and avoid what is uncomfortable or what comes less easy. Runners have a tendency to do nothing but run. Bicyclists have a tendency to do nothing but cycle. People focusing on strength building have a tendency to focus on building muscles that look good at the beach to the neglect of other muscles that keep the spine, shoulders, and hips in balance.

A good general rule to keep in mind is to always do the reverse of everything you are doing. For every push exercise, do a pull exercise. If you like to do bench presses and bicep curls, spend an equal amount of time doing rows and triceps extensions. If your fitness regimen incorporates a lot of flexibility and stretching, add strengthening exercises to the same areas. Distance joggers should also try to incorporate strength training that includes the gluteal muscles, core muscles, inner thighs, and outer thighs. Even if you do not have a regular exercise routine, daily habits can create imbalances. For example, always carrying your purse on the same shoulder, keeping your desk seat so low that your shoulders are always hunched, sitting on a wallet that’s too thick and causing your back muscles to compensate.

Simple tests: Rotate, lift, stretch in opposite directions and comparing the left and right side of the body. You should have pain free rotation in equal distances when you rotate any joint or area of your body in opposite directions. For instance, slowly turn your head as far as you can to the left and then to the right. If you can turn farther in one direction or if your maximal range is a little painful at the end you may have a muscle imbalance. Lying on your back, lift one leg at a time, keeping your knees straight. You should be able to lift both legs an equal height without bending your knees and without your hips leaving the ground.

If you are experiencing aches, pains, joint stability issues, joint range issues, sometimes a simple consultation and a few training sessions by a physical therapist are all you need to empower you to balance your body for life.

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