Hey Angels and Alphas,
Regardless of whether or not you realize it, you’re likely doing everyday tasks with the same side of your body. For example, you might go up your home’s set of steps with the same foot first, or you might be used to carrying your bag on the same shoulder every day while you’re shopping for groceries.
And that’s okay. We all do it.
Tooth brushing, writing on a notebook, kicking cupboard doors closed, scrolling on your smartphone – all of these seemingly unimportant actions have the tendency to stack up
over time, resulting in a “dominant” side of our bodies.
This, as you’re probably guessing, sooner or later, translates into imbalances and muscle compensations that result in less-than-perfect fitness performance and, ultimately, a higher risk of injury.
That same dominance-building on one side of the body is naturally happening every time you’re training in the gym, as well. Even if you don’t realize it, one side of your body is potentially doing more work than the opposite, creating massive amounts of muscle tension along the way.
That’s why today, we’re going to explore this topic in a little more detail, shining light on some of the more risky and negative aspects of muscle imbalances (and what we can
do to fix them.)
What are muscle imbalances, why do they happen, and how do they relate to poor posture?
When you have a difference on one side of your body that’s stemming from one side of the body being more dominant than the other, this can undoubtedly affect your posture. The more dominant the side is, the higher the impact on its antagonist.
When you’re working the muscles on one side of the body more than the opposite, this will slowly but surely lead to strains, sprains, chronic pains, and other complicated issues.
Moreover, the poor posture that results from this one-side dominance has been directly linked to back problems, joint pain, frequent headaches, respiratory problems, fatigue, digestive issues, and so much more. That’s why it’s definitely something you want to take seriously if you’re a gym-goer who doesn’t plan on stopping their journey anytime
You could even have muscle weakness on your dominant side due to overuse, and this can further set you up for a whole heap of bad-posture results (since your non-dominant side may not be developed enough to take all the pressure away.)
What happens here is, your body will try to compensate when there’s a significant imbalance. This compensation results in overcorrection, leading to more strain, especially around muscle groups that aren’t used to high levels of activity.
To wrap this up, this means that a muscle imbalance is essentially when the strength or size of a muscle on one part of your body is not symmetrical to the size/strength of the muscles on the other side of your body.
There are a bajillion reasons why muscle imbalances happen, and everyone is bound to face or develop one sooner or later.
For example, golf players and baseball players, although athletes, can easily produce muscle imbalances because they’re utilizing the dominant side of their body to perform swings or throws. Both gym newbies and gym veterans can develop muscle imbalances simply by relying on their dominant side to push through a heavy lift or intense exercise. Muscle imbalances shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt – they can and will ultimately lead to bigger problems, from spinal positioning to posture, which will develop into more issues when you’re sitting, lying down, or walking.
Whatever imbalance you’re currently facing, your first step toward correcting it is to find the root cause of that muscle imbalance. When you know the root cause, you can make a precise effort to fix it.
Here are some tips on how to correct muscle imbalances.
In addition to resolving posture problems (and helping prevent them altogether), addressing your muscle imbalances will also help you improve your strength, flexibility, balance, all while lowering the total risk of injury you’re facing. Sounds like a great deal!
When it comes to actual strategies for building strength equal in both sides of the body (so you can address these imbalances), here’s what the experts recommend:
1. START USING YOUR NON-DOMINANT SIDE MORE.
If you’re always starting workouts with your dominant side, this will result in having less energy to push through on the other side. A great rule of thumb is to let your “weaker side” determine what volume you’re chasing, so you can do the same volume on each side of your body. Even if this doesn’t feel enough for your dominant side, what you’re doing here is trying to balance them out, and this will give your weaker side the opportunity to catch up in strength.
2. EMBRACE UNILATERAL EXERCISES
Unilateral exercises are movements performed with one arm or one leg that usually tend to highlight muscle imbalances. Let’s say you’re used to doing chest presses with a barbell. The unilateral alternative here would be to “seesaw” press with two separate dumbbells, so you’re essentially focusing on one side at a time. Other great alternatives for common exercises include the single-leg squats, single-arm rows, bicep curls, lunges, and more.
3. FOCUSING ON YOUR MOBILITY
Some of the time, imbalances are the result of one side of the body not being as flexible as its opposite. In these cases, mobility exercises can deliver amazing (and quick) results when dealing with these muscle imbalances. Full-body mobility exercises will bring an unmatched amount of elasticity to tissues in your body, easing muscle imbalances all throughout your body and letting you build a steady foundation of mobility that makes imbalances harder to develop.
4. BE MINDFUL IN EVERYDAY TASKS.
Perhaps the most difficult piece of advice you can receive (but maybe the most effective) is the tactic of doing everyday tasks with your non-dominant side. To do this, you have to be mindful, because let’s be honest, nobody really makes a conscious choice to hold their bag with their right hand, it’s just habitually built in us.
While it might feel very awkward to brush your teeth with the opposite hand or step up with your left foot first, this will result in more balance that helps speed up the progress when dealing with any muscle imbalance.
The bottom line…
Muscle imbalances are important, and they should never be neglected. You have to work toward improving the weaker side of a muscle or your body as a whole, so you can stay healthy and prevent further complications (because they will happen.)
To do this, you can…
- Perform unilateral exercises.
- Letting your weaker side control your workout volume.
- Focusing on mobility and flexibility.
- Concentrating on form and being mindful of which side of the body you’re using for everyday tasks.
Bring these together, and you have pretty much everything you need to rehab a muscle imbalance and get back on track to making balanced gains in strength and size.