Every joint in our body is surrounded by muscles that produce and control movement. Sometimes muscles on one side of a joint become too tight from overuse, which then causes the muscles on the other side to become too weak from lack of use. This is called muscle imbalance. Muscle imbalances can potentially cause an injury. The right exercise program can improve your muscle strength and improve joint range of motion, both of which are necessary for eliminating muscle imbalances.
Below are six things that you should know about muscle imbalances.
1. Repetitive motions are one of the most common causes of muscle imbalances. Repetitive movements at work or performing the exact same exercises in every workout are two examples. If you have a job requiring repetitive motions, try to identify ways that you can make small changes to the movement to avoid imbalances. Also, change the exercises in your workouts on a regular basis to minimize the risk of developing muscle imbalances.
2. Staying in a sedentary, seated position for an extended period of time can create muscle imbalances in your hips. When you are seated, your hips are flexed, which places the muscles that cause hip flexion in a shortened position. When the hip flexors are shortened, they will change the way the hip joints move. In addition, tight hip flexors reduce the activity to the gluteus maximus muscles which are responsible for extending the hips. This could be a cause of low back pain. If you spend a lot of time seated, look for opportunities to stand up, move around and try to keep your joints mobile and your hip muscles from becoming too tight.
3. Your driving position can result in muscle imbalances. Keeping one leg bent back or slouching while driving could cause the resting length of your muscles to change, especially if you’re in the car for extended periods of time. Pay attention to how you sit and try to keep your body in a neutral position. If you’re taking a long car trip, stop to get out, move around and stretch.
4. Performing exercises in a single plane of motion can contribute to muscle imbalances because our body is designed to move through multiple planes of motion in many directions. To reduce this risk, make sure that your exercise program includes equal amounts of movements like pushing, pulling, or rotating, as well as moving sideways and in rotational directions.
5. Poor posture can result in muscle imbalances of the upper body, specifically the shoulders and upper back. For example, allowing your body to roll forward in a slouched position can cause shortness in the muscles of the shoulders, which creates unnecessary length in the muscles of the upper back. Using a computer keyboard or texting often can also encourage this slouched position. If this sounds familiar, exercises for core stability or performing pulling movements with your hands in a neutral position can help you stand taller (which also helps you to look slimmer without dropping any weight).
6. Frequently wearing shoes with heels higher than your toes could increase your risk for developing muscle imbalances in your feet, lower legs, hips and shoulders. When your heels are in an elevated position, it can change the position of your knees. This, in turn, changes the position of your thigh bones, which, subsequently, changes the position of your spine and shoulders. Elevated heels can also cause extreme tightness in the calves.
When your car has a tendency to pull to one side, it’s probably out of alignment and you need to see a mechanic. Likewise, with your body. A certified personal trainer has the skill set to help identify any muscle imbalances. These imbalances can be addressed with an appropriate exercise program that improves joint stability, mobility, and enhances overall movement efficiency.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.