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Correcting a Muscular Imbalance

Posted on May 2, 2017

It’s not uncommon to have some form of a muscular imbalance.

In fact, you will most likely always have a slight imbalance in certain areas of your body due to being dominant on one particular side. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working to correct them, especially if they’re having a negative effect on your posture or performance in training and everyday life.

What is a muscular imbalance?

A muscle imbalance is a difference in size or strength between two matching muscle groups.

Example: One side of your chest is more developed than the other or one of your glutes activates more efficiently than the other one.

 

In this post I wanted to outline some of the most common forms of muscular imbalances along with exercises you can do to correct them. Another key thing to keep in mind is that you need to assess what is causing the imbalance. Is it muscle tightness and lack of mobility? Is it overuse? It’s critical to figure this out before you go trying to fix it.

Important note: When training to correct an imbalance, stick to uni-lateral exercises. Using equipment such as dumbbells, cables, uni-lateral hammer strength machines, body weight, therabands etc.

Glutes

A lot of the time this is caused by a lower body injury such as an ankle or knee injury. The glutes are the main driver of the lower body, if they don’t work then you’re practically paralysed so to speak. The most common cause of lower back injuries is weak/lazy glutes or tight hips so it should be a priority to have them firing evenly.

Exercises to help balance them out: Check out this video for some of the best glute activation exercises.

 

*Click here for stretches to help with glute activation. *

Hamstrings

Hamstring imbalances are often due to either tight hips or under-active and weak glutes. Follow the steps above to help prevent hamstring issues.

Click here to read: Preventing lower back pain and hamstring injuries.

Other exercises to help balance them out:

-Single leg arabesques

-Single leg hamstring curls (machine and/or theraband)

 

Chest

A pec/chest imbalance is usually caused by a weak or under-active scapula. If this is the case, every time you do any form or chest press your shoulder will internally rotate which causes one side to push more than the other (mainly on barbell movements or bi-lateral movements).

Exercises to help balance them out:

-Single arm dumbbell press (Incline or flat bench)

-Scapula retractions using therbands

-Scapula push ups (see video here)

-Scapula pull ups *Hang from a pull up bar and retract shoulder blades while keeping arms fully locked out.

Lats should also be mentioned here as a weak or under-active scapula is usually the cause of an imbalance of the lats.

Exercises to help balance them out:

-Exactly the same exercises as above although swap out chest press for single arm rows. I’ve found the best way to activate the lats using a single arm row is to set up a cable station, take a seat, lean forward slightly, keep your chest out and shoulder blade retracted, relax your hand and pull through the elbow. holding each rep for 1-2 seconds in full contraction.

Quads

Typically due to a leg injury, these are an easy fix.

Exercises to help balance them out:

-Single leg leg extensions

-Single leg pistol squats (see video here)

-VMO leg raises

-Wall sit

 

Biceps/Triceps

Bicep and tricep imbalances are relatively common, the straight forward answer is stick to dumbbells and keep barbell work very minimal to ensure both sides are working evenly.

 

Calves

An imbalance between calves is often present in athletes who do a significant amount of jumping or take offs on one side only.

Exercises to help balance them out:

-Single leg calf raises (seated and standing)

-Make sure you’re trying to do an equal amount of work on both sides of your body during training

 

Shoulders

9 times out of 10 delt imbalances are caused by a weak or under-active scapula and/or tight pecs which causes internal rotation of the shoulder. This means every upper body push movement you perform will be activating different areas of the delt from one side to the other (one side will usually take more of the load).

Another cause is rotator cuff issues.

Exercises to help balance them out:

-Scapula retractions using therbands

-Scapula push ups (see video here)

-Scapula pull ups *Hang from a pull up bar and retract shoulder blades while keeping arms fully locked out.

-Rotator cuff exercises (internal and external)

-Single arm lateral, anterior and posterior raises

 

There’s 2 extremely important things to keep in mind when coming back from an injury or simply trying to correct a muscular imbalance.

  1. Always begin with the weaker body part
  2. Always complete the same amount of reps with the same amount of weight on your stronger body part as you did with your weaker one.

If you’ve found this post helpful or know someone that would, I’d be extremely grateful if you shared it on your social media.

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