How to Fix Muscle Imbalances
Have you ever been doing a lift and just felt like one side is weaker than the other? Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and notice that your left bicep is just a little more developed than your right? You might even notice that you have pain after doing certain exercises?
Most of this will be due to a muscle imbalance somewhere on your body. The human body is a machine built on synchronicity. Everything must move fluidly and with purpose to help you lift, walk, or bend over. If there is one thing out of alignment in the system, then it can often cause issues somewhere down the line.
These issues can be due to many things that we’ll cover in this post. You’ll also be learning some ways in which you can help fix these imbalances to improve strength, proportions, and reduce the risk of injuries.
How Does a Muscle Imbalance Happen?
Muscle imbalances don’t happen overnight. They are often things that come about over time with repeated overuse or underuse of a muscle. These imbalances can come from the way you exercise, but they can also come from things like the way you sit. Even something as small as driving all day with your wallet in your back pocket could create an imbalance in your back or hips.
While these things seem small, over time they can cause you to favor one side which can throw off strength and muscle development. In addition, if you’re someone who is working out with intensity, an imbalance can sometimes lead to any injury. Supporting a heavy weight more on one side than the other, or over striding with one leg during a run can cause your body to be placed in a less than ideal position. This is how an injury often happens.
So, muscle imbalances come from favoring a certain side of your body or really the way you position yourself in day-to-day life. The goal would be to try and keep everything neutral, or at least work things in a way that allows for balance.
What really matters here is being able to identify why an imbalance is happening and where it is starting.
What Can Fix a Muscle Imbalance?
When it comes to fixing a muscle imbalance, you may find yourself getting frustrated. This is due to the fact that they may not be all that obvious. You may feel an imbalance in your chest, but it may be something in your shoulder. You could have pain in your back, but it might start at having a tight ankle. Your right tricep may not be growing as much, but it could be that your scapula is offset. The body is like a chain, and when there is one bad link, it can affect the others down the line. So, you must start by looking at things holistically. If your triceps really are off balance, instead of hammering the smaller one with more reps, take a step back and look further up the chain. You may need to do some smaller scale exercises that focus on your shoulders ability to retract. The point is that most of the time, you can fix a muscle imbalance by first identifying the real issue, then taking some time to improve upon it.
Another great way to that you can fix some imbalances is by working in unilateral movements. Almost all the major exercises you can find people doing are using both sides of the body to move a load simultaneously. However, if you work one side of the body at a time, you don’t have as much of a chance of favoring one side. Let’s take bench press for example. If you perform a barbell bench press, you may use more of your left side without even knowing it. However, if you were to do a single arm dumbbell bench press, you would quickly see which side is stronger. While this may not be fun, it’s a great way to see imbalances as well as target them.
Focusing on some pre-hab exercises is also great. Now, this somewhat goes back to the first point of taking time to do some smaller scale exercises, but it can really change the game. If you have a tight hip or some sort of muscular imbalance, a great way to combat this is with some mobility or stretching prior to exercising. This helps to not only loosen things up but prep your muscles to work properly. If you’ve been sitting to one side all day at work, and you immediately go to the gym to squat, things are not going to feel right. You’re going to be tight on one side versus the other and you may even find that this causes you some nagging pains.
Each imbalance is going to be unique to the individual, so there isn’t a one size fits all solution. However, if you can identify where it’s starting (listen your body and do some trial and error), work on some pre-hab exercises, and integrate some unilateral movements into your routine you should be off to a great start.
Muscle imbalances can be tricky and cause you some trouble. However, there is always solution, it just might not be immediate. You must think, imbalances take time to develop, therefore they are going to take some time to fix. So long as you are diligent in taking the effort needed to get this thing fixed, you will start to notice a dramatic change. Listen to your body and understand that hammering it with more work won’t always fix it. Start small and think about how the body works as one.