Everyone has favorite muscle groups. They’ve probably been strong since you started exercising. And, maybe that’s why you love working them out so much that you can’t stop going harder and heavier on them. Sadly, that’s a recipe for muscle imbalance at best, injury at worst.
There is a reason why muscle imbalance shouldn’t be taken lightly. It could create bigger problems, from poor posture, chronic pain to asymmetry. Hence, it is always best to find the root cause and make a precise effort to fix it.
Spotting a Muscle Imbalance
Identifying muscular imbalances is tricky as it takes a variety of assessments to tease them out. The easiest type of muscle imbalance to spot is asymmetry (a mismatch between left and right-side muscle groups). To spot it, grab a measuring tape, measure both sides 3 times, average the measurements, and compare.
Proportions are much trickier to judge. If you take unflexed pictures of the front and back of your body and analyze, you’ll probably find blemishes.
You can also use unilateral training to learn exactly how imbalanced you are. If you can press a weight 10 times with your right hand and only 8 times with your left, you know your right arm is about 20% stronger than your left.
So, how do we promote muscle balance and fight muscle imbalance? Pretty simply, by exercising the right way. Here are 7 ways to correct muscular imbalance:
1. Keep your workouts balanced
Train your lower body as much as you train your upper body. The same goes with your front and backside. To maintain balanced development among all your muscle groups, you have to work the entire body, from head to toe.
2. Start compound training
As mentioned earlier, isolation exercises contribute to muscular imbalance. The very idea of “leg days” or “arm days” is counterproductive to real fitness.
On the contrary, compound movements force us to use every muscle in our bodies correctly. So, preferring compound exercises over isolation is another step toward correcting muscle imbalance. Even if you’re tempted to bulk up your biceps, resist the urge to curl. Instead, perform a few more pull-ups and know it’ll all work out in the end.
3. Ensure proper form
If the poor form is partly to blame for imbalance, get professional help to train the right way. Get consultation on the more complex lifts to ensure you’re actively engaging all the important muscles.
4. Recognize the power of unilateral exercises
Perform unilateral exercises in place of bilateral exercises. Unilateral exercises isolate one side of your body from the other and help you shift your attention on your weaker side. When you allow both sides to work at once (in case of bilateral training), the stronger side automatically takes over.
5. Undertrain your stronger side
Narrow the imbalance gap by performing all unilateral exercises with your weaker side first. Do as many reps as you can. Then, match that number with your stronger side. When your stronger side gasses out on the same rep as your weaker side, your muscle imbalance is equalized.
6. Always warm up
Poor flexibility in the weaker side can also cause muscle imbalances, so always ensure that you are going through a proper dynamic warm-up sequence for a full range of motion when you train. Also, stretch at the end of a workout, giving special attention to your weaker side.
7. Keep changing your routine
Stop doing the same exercises with the same weight and the same number of sets and reps for your weak points. New exercises will lead to new adaptations, and when combined with the tips outlined above, discourage muscle imbalance.