by Tony Gjokaj August 17, 2020 8 min read
If you've been through an injury, you know how bad it sucks not only physically, but mentally. One of my most memorable injuries was a mild shoulder tear that changed the course of the way I exercised. The cause of it was poor exercise programming, lack of shoulder stability, and prolonged periods of sitting at work and school.
Shoulder instability is a pretty common issue today that impacts many. Having learned so much from dealing with it, I decided a muscular imbalance post was a necessity.
In this post, we are going to dive into muscular imbalances in their entirety: from experiencing them, to preventing them or overcoming them. We are here to help you avoid them at all costs.
Let's dive in!
If you sit at a desk for hours at a time or you train in one specific style, chances are you will encounter tightness or weakness in certain muscles.
Muscular Imbalances are typically encountered when certain muscles in the body overcompensate over others. This could lead to them being constantly active or tense, or pulling them into a direction that is unnatural for long periods of time. They could eventually lead to injury or poor posture... and these things can be problematic to our physical and mental health.
These imbalances can be a result of poor exercise program balance, muscles being overused, bad posture for long periods of time, lack of activity, and more.
We will use sitting at a desk throughout this post as an example. When you sit with a computer at hand, we typically encounter these common issues:
- Slouching at the desk.
- Rounded or forward shoulders.
- Head leans forward.
- Chest caved downwards.
These things lead to various issues: overactive chest, weak shoulders, fragile rotator cuffs, poor hip flexibility, overactive rhomboids, and more.
Muscular tightness is the restriction of movement in the specified area. This can come as a result of soreness, inflammation, overuse injuries, and more. Most long-term tightness issues tend to be overuse injuries or overcompensation of one muscle group compared to its antagonist or opposite.
Muscular imbalances are common if you neglect movement in any of the three planes of motion: the sagittal, frontal and transverse.
For example: powerlifters mostly train in the sagittal and frontal planes. The transverse plane is sometimes neglected, leading to muscular imbalances like a weak core (abdominals).
Your body tends to move together in unison. Sometimes an injury in one area can lead to tightness or overuse in another to compensate. For example, a tight hip flexor can lead to tight upper trapezius muscles. With this, you can see why it's incredibly difficult to figure out what imbalances you may have.
The solution is to go through these common imbalances and work towards improving the following:
There are a plethora of ways that muscular imbalances can occur, from poor mobility to poor workout structure. We wanted to go over the most common muscular imbalances and what you can do to prevent or alleviate them.
Reminder before reading on: always talk with a doctor or a specialist in regards to movement issues, injuries, and other challenges.
Neck and shoulder tightness tends to be the more common issues that are encountered as muscular imbalances.
If you have tightness in your neck and shoulders, it could be the following issues:
As these two issues can both occur, we recommend implementing the following things for recovery:
While the scapula ties into both the neck and the shoulders, we wanted to explore this area separately. The scapula is one of the most intricate muscle groups in our body, as they consist of various small muscles. One small issue can impact the whole muscle group, making it an extremely important area to take care of.
A common cause of this is overdeveloped or overactive trapezius muscles, which can be a result of constant training or even prolonged sitting. One solution can be to stretch your trapezius and scapular muscles to the best of your abilities. This can be done in the following ways:
As the scapula is very difficult to mobilize, consider seeing an expert to work on these muscles for you.
Lower back pain is another one of the more common muscular imbalance issues we encounter today. As it is usually coupled with upper back tightness, this is one of the areas we put more focus on.
If you have tightness in the lower back, it could be one of three things:
As some of these can occur simultaneously, here is what we recommend for recovery:
When it comes to knee pain, one of the issues is a weakness in the quadriceps muscles. The Vastus Lateralis and Vastus Medialis tend to be the muscles that need to be strengthened.
To strengthen these muscles, you should implement these Quadriceps-strengthening exercises into your program:
The rotator cuffs are the muscles that stabilize the shoulders. It is one of the most common areas of injuries in lifters and people who work at a desk for hours at a time.
When it comes to lifting, rotator cuff weakness is common in men who tend to focus on beach muscles (the chest, shoulders, and triceps) and neglect the back and leg muscles.
While the rotator cuffs are not sexy muscles to train or work on, they're a necessity for overall health and longevity.
As we tend to sit for hours at a time, shoulder instability is inevitable. With shoulder stability, a lot of the issues encountered by muscular imbalances can be corrected (to some extent).
Examples of Shoulder stabilization exercises (these will target the rotator cuff muscles):
I would recommend doing these exercises or variations of them to improve the intricate rotator cuff muscles, restoring shoulder stability.
Bicep Tendinopathy is known as a weakness in the long head of the biceps. It is typically a result of shoulder instability, which could ultimately be a rotator cuff issue. When doing an exercise like the barbell curl, you should feel extreme levels of tightness in the biceps area.
If you encounter tight biceps, consider strengthening shoulder mobility and stability. Building stability will loosen up your biceps and keep them from potentially getting strained or injured.
The hip flexors are the muscles that support and stabilize your core and walking capabilities (also known as your gait). It is one of the biggest issues you can encounter if you sit for hours at a time.
When your hip flexors are tight, they tend to pull down your pelvis, leading to lower back pain (and an anterior pelvic tilt). Tight hip flexors also contribute to issues like knee pain, quadriceps weakness, and more.
How we would build strength in the hip flexors is the following:
As muscular imbalances are very individual, we decided to provide the best tips to optimize muscular balance.
Here is a 10-step checklist of things you can utilize to optimize muscular balance:
Remember that it could take months to years and even some expert help to alleviate muscular imbalances. Think about all of the hours and days we have spent with poor posture or bad workout planning.
Be patient with yourself. While my shoulder injury was one story, I have had a time where I could not squat anything past 135lbs without pain. It was not until I implemented strengthening my quadriceps and opening up my hip flexors that I stopped feeling the pain.
I wanted to take the time to thank you all for reading this guide. We truly hope it helps you to some extent to understand more about your body. While you can attempt these to alleviate any imbalances, make sure you speak to an expert in regards to these issues.
Any questions or comments? Throw them below, or email me at email@example.com.
Until next time, Reforged Legion!
Tony is the Owner of Reforged Performance Nutrition. He is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and has been in the fitness space for over a decade. His goal is to help bridge the gap between physical & mental health through fitness.
by Tony Gjokaj March 31, 2021 3 min read
What is the difference between Impulse and Catalyst?
We get this asked every once in a while to new members of the Reforged Legion.
So in this post, I wanted to talk about the differences between these two products: who they are for, what they're made for, and what scenarios you can use them in.
by Tony Gjokaj March 24, 2021 2 min read
Two new products incoming!
Introducing our Recovery Line!
by Tony Gjokaj March 20, 2021 3 min read
I’ve had clients in the past tell me they wanted to lose an “x” amount of pounds in one month.
Why the one month?
“I just want it done quickly.”
This is understandable... I have been there. But I've always had bad experiences and problems with fitness goals like this.
They’re always outcome-based. High expectations with a probability that they might not be achieved or accomplished.
Things like “I need to drop 15lbs for my wedding in 2 weeks” are always things that people desire for just a specific moment in their life.
This is one of the reasons why I believe people fail.
We expect so much with our goals, but we don't have systems or processes to get to them.
We need to go beyond this with the formulation with the acceptance of a lifestyle change… and of what I like to call Badass Goals.
Rise to a greater potential.
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