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Balancing Act II

Muscle Imbalance: Forms and Causes
Let’s get right down to the nitty gritty. What are the many causes of Muscle Imbalance, it is always best to break it down in to sub-groups for easier digestion.

Structural imbalances are genetic imbalances we’ve had since birth. These we don’t need to worry about, our bodies have had years of practice to adapt to and compensate for these. If you look at me closely you’ll notice one of my ears sits lower on my head than the other. Some people have one leg longer than the other, etc. BUT! Although we don’t need to pay attention to these specifically unless they are egregious, we CANNOT overlook the fact that our bodies will adapt to whatever “truth” it finds itself in. Meaning as we look at other causes and treatments, keep in mind that your body, if left in a new state long enough, will simply compensate for the new state by pulling even more things out of balance to find a new (yet less optimal) balance. Your body wants to live beyond everything else and it will sacrifice form and/ or function to maintain life.

Antagonist Muscle Strength
Now this is a problem that can come from training. Ever hear of “Quad dominant”. Which is a way of saying your quadriceps are disparately stronger than your hamstrings. This often leads to joint issues in the knee and hip. Then our first form of Muscle Imbalance would be a too strong muscle group antagonized with a too weak muscle groups. e.g. Quads vs Hammies, Chest vs Back, Tri’s vs Bi’s…etc.

Tight/Loose Muscles
The next form of balance problem could be tight or loose muscles. For instance, tight hamstrings are very common, you may naturally have short hamstrings in which case you started at a genetic disadvantage. Or maybe you just don’t stretch or foam roll EVER. Whatever the reason a tight or loose muscle means you are not in balance. In our example tight hamstrings tend to pull the pelvis out of natural alignment. And as we said your body will change other things down the line to adapt to the new state or truth. And like we said in Part I, when balance is out of whack that means injury could be looming.


Okay so now that we see the forms lets briefly look at causes or the No-No’s

NO-NO #1: Bad Posture
I wasn’t going to call anyone out but these two ladies are strong and can handle it. Lauren O (who is expecting!) and Marlene K (who’s baby girl is the CUTEST ever!), anyway these two ladies I have gotten on repeatedly for their anterior rotated shoulders (slouching in layman). I don’t get on them to be mean or critical, but because for shoulder and back health it is IMPERATIVE to have good posture. You can foam roll and stretch and try to balance your muscles all you want, but think about how much time you are in the gym…as opposed to how long you are out of the gym. In essence if you keep bad posture through most of the day AND have to sit a desk you are “training” your body poorly for 12-14 hours/day, do you really think 1 hour of foam rolling and stretching/day is enough to combat that? It doesn’t work! You must (DO IT NOW!) pull your shoulders back and down and sit or stand up straight. As often as you can, don’t be scared to remind people in the gym when you see them sitting or standing to straighten up, it can be fun, but really we are trying to save folks from chronic injury that will derail their development.

NO-NO #2: Lack of Flexibility/Tight Muscles
As we said tight muscles tend to pull the surrounding joints out of position. Tight erector spinae muscles the muscles that run along either side of your spine are a common culprit for putting pressure on vertebrae (not good). Especially in your lumbar spine where there are no ribs to help hold things in place.

NO-NO #3: Loose Muscles/Hyper-flexibility
On the other side of the coin is the loose muscle, this is the muscle that doesn’t fire when needed because it is weak and atrophied and leads of course to abnormal joint movement patterns, which will eventually lead to injury.

NO-NO #4: Bad Programming/Bad Exercise Supplementation
So you want to get 70’s Big…I think that’s fantastic, personally I may be doing that myself in the near future. Here’s the problem. The program is only about the lifting, what is not detailed for you is how to maintain Balance while you are on the program.

Let’s look at programming for upperbody for which the shoulder is the main joint to consider. When it comes to programming for this, most people will think, “Hey, I need to pair vertical pull with vertical push.” (true and a good start), enter pull-ups and dips. Then if they think about it harder they’ll say, “Oooh, and I need to pair horizontal push with horizontal pull,.. PLUS horizontal and vertical should be paired so it makes sense…” (true), enter bench press and ring rows. Then they stop there. WHOOPS! Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent basis at an attempt to balance your program, but there are movement patterns completely missing. Namely internal and external rotation and scapular elevation and depression balance….What is that? EXACTLY, let’s look at a list from Mr. Eric Cressey who is a very well respected Strength and Conditioning coach.

This is very interesting…Look at this list of Humeral interally rotated upperbody exercises err shoulder stuff:
Bench Press, Push Up, Pull Up, Lat Pull down, Dip, DB Front raises, Press, Push Press, Jerk…
Does that list sound like exercises you’ve done at CFSD? Hmmm…

So how about Humeral externally rotated upperbody exercises:

Seated DB Cleans, Cuban Press, Rear Delt fly, Prone trap raise, Prone cobra (held for time)…
Wait, Hunh? Do any of these exercises look like anything you do on a regular basis…Maybe there’s a reason your shoulder has been bugging you?

Let’s dig deeper, how about Scapular Depression vs Scapular Elevation:
Let’s look at Scap Elevation exercises first:

Shrugs, SDHP, Clean, Snatch, Press, Push Press, Jerk
Again looks familiar and we’re right at home here.
How about Scap Depression:
Wall Slides (Gymnasty regulars know these well), Prone trap raises, Behind the neck band pulldowns, straight arm lat pulldowns

Again, not as familiar….

Takeaways from NO-NO #4
Yep, shoulder health is involved, but the shoulder is a dynamic joint, the most dynamic in the body, and as such needs to be treated with care or it WILL be an issue.


So, now you see some of the forms and causes of balance issues…But no worries, in part III we’ll wrap it up and nip this stuff in the bud.

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