A balanced body works better. It is no coincidence that the two sides of the body are symmetrical, with corresponding ligaments and tendons. Our bodies function best when our muscles and bones are equally strong and healthy. Your opposing muscle groups are meant to work together in harmony, and when one group is worked more than another, an imbalance can occur.
Here is a simplified list of the major muscle groups and their movements:
- Biceps/triceps: bend and straighten elbow
- Deltoids/lattisimus dorsi: lift and lower arm
- Pectorals/trapezius: move arms and shoulders forward and backward
- Abdominals/erector spinae: bend spine forward and backward
- Quadriceps/hamstrings: bend and straighten knee
- Hip abductors/adductors: move legs apart and together
- Gastrocnemius/tibialis anterior: standing on and lifting toes
- Iliopsoas/gluteals: lifting knee or moving knee backward
Muscle imbalance occurs when one muscle group is stronger than its opposing side, creating a disparity of strength. This is common in athletes such as baseball pitchers and tennis players who develop a dominant arm, or weight lifters who often build up chest muscles while neglecting their back. For non-athletes, daily activities or repetitive movements in the workplace can cause the same type of imbalance in muscle pairs. This lack of symmetry can set you up for injury and pain.
Contributing factors to muscle imbalance include isolation exercises and poor form. When we think of each muscle group as its own entity, our bodies will begin to lack cohesion. Though each individual muscle may be strong in its own way, that doesn’t mean it will work together with all the rest.
So what to do when an imbalance occurs? First off, exercise correctly. Eliminate “leg days” or “arm days” in the gym and opt for a full-body workout. If you must focus on one muscle, be sure to counteract those movements with exercises that strengthen the opposing group—such as bench presses for your chest and seated rows for your back. Stretch the muscles that are out of balance and work on strengthening the weaker one. Visit us at Action Reaction Physical Therapy where one of our qualified physical therapists will happily give you an assessment of your body’s status in terms of balance, imbalance, and movement.
Featured photo from here.