It’s not uncommon these days to witness athletes getting injured frequently. One reason behind this is a muscle imbalance.
There are over 650 skeletal muscles in the human body. All of them work together to provide strength and stability. So, if muscle on one side of a joint becomes too tight, it can cause the muscles on the other side to become weak. This is known as muscle imbalance. If left untreated, it can turn into a severe problem that might ultimately limit your mobility. When a muscle is too tight, the joint tends to move in that direction and is limited in the opposite direction since this is typically ‘the path of least resistance.’ 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. A tight hamstring would not allow the joint to glide normally or fully extend, which could put extra stress on the quadriceps muscle and patella (knee cap).
Common imbalances develop in the chest and upper back. The shoulders are rotated inward, causing a shortening of the chest muscles. After years in the sport, the muscle becomes atrophied and short. Conversely, the muscles in the upper back become elongated and pull on the spine. For example, a pistol shooter keeps his/her dominant arm in front of them, over time the pectoral (chest) muscle of the same side will become shorter. At the same time, the muscles on the same side of the back will elongate and rotate the portion of the spine that they are linked to. This causes some interior spinal muscles to become atrophied, potentially causing pain by pinching nerves. The same scenario can occur in countless areas of the body. The chest and back, biceps and triceps, quads and hamstrings, hip flexors and gluteal muscles, can all be affected.
Signs & Symptoms of Muscle Imbalance
- Muscle Tear
- Joint Pain
- Muscle tightness
- Reduced Range-of-motion
How to fix Muscle Imbalance?
When it comes to muscle imbalance treatment, the best way to go about it is to follow the right workout routine that strengthens your muscles and enhances joint range-of-motion. This will train your entire body evenly. Keep the following things in mind to fix muscle imbalance:
- Look for signs
Pain – Advanced stages of muscular imbalances lead to pain.
Weakness on one side – Perform a movement (pull-up, push-up, squat) and if you notice one side fatigues faster, you’re imbalanced.
Physique imbalances –Our bodies aren’t uniformly symmetrical. One can have perfectly balanced strength but may notice that the body looks a bit different in the mirror from side to side. This CAN be a sign of an imbalance.
- Improve mobility
Mobility is a critical component in becoming balanced. Improve mobility and your strength will also improve. As you go through mobility exercises, note down any differences in the range of movement at each joint.
- Distribute more bodyweight to the weaker side
Choose exercises where you can more easily isolate your weaker side. The best way to do this is through bodyweight distribution. Do simple exercises such as push-ups, squats and pull-ups. While performing these movements, shift your weight over to your weaker side. This will put a greater load on the weaker muscle group, forcing it to adapt without relying on the dominant side to take over when it gets tough.
- Increase volume
You need volume to increase strength and size. You have to work the muscle over and over again, on multiple planes.
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While fixing muscle imbalance, don’t expect results overnight. You must focus on being consistent rather and perform these exercises daily to see the best results.