Fitness Q & A: What Is a Muscle Imbalance?

Fitness Q & A: What Is a Muscle Imbalance?Whether you’re pursuing a career in the fitness industry or you’d just like to get in shape, your awareness of fitness-related terms can be the difference between success and failure. Muscle imbalance is one such term.

Muscle imbalances occur when specific muscles are more or less developed than their opposing muscles. If not corrected, muscle imbalances can lead to frustration, discomfort, and even injury.

Common Muscle Imbalances

Because humans are forward-oriented, the muscles on the front of the body are more often used than those on the back of the body. Walking forward, for example, develops the iliopsoas at the expense of the gluteals, which are almost universally underused. You not only face objects to lift them rather than lifting behind your back but also lift up with your biceps more often than you press down with your triceps. Working out can compound the resulting imbalance if you don’t ensure that all of your muscles receive equal attention.

Cosmetic Muscle Imbalances

Not all muscle imbalances involve opposing muscles such as the biceps and triceps. Some imbalances occur between identical muscles on each side of the body, and the result is more cosmetic. For example, when one shoulder is bigger than the other, the imbalance creates a noticeable lack of symmetry but has little effect otherwise. Another type of cosmetic muscle imbalance involves two unevenly developed parts of the same muscle group such as front and rear deltoids or middle and upper pectorals. Cosmetic muscle imbalances can be genetic but often result from overuse of the dominant side.

How a Muscle Imbalance Causes an Injury

In addition to occurring between opposing muscles, identical muscles on different sides of the body, and different parts of the same muscle group, muscle imbalances can occur between primary and stabilizer muscles. Bench presses, for example, work the pectoral muscles but rely on stabilizers such as rotator cuffs to assist in lifting the weight. If not sufficiently developed, the rotator cuffs can tear under the stress. A torn rotator cuff is a painful injury that often requires surgery and can keep an athlete sidelined for months. If you rely on upper body workouts as part of your fitness regimen, then strong rotator cuffs are a must.

Correcting Muscle Imbalances

If you’re concerned about a muscle imbalance leading to injury, you can correct it by changing your regimen to include exercises for each muscle. Keep in mind that your muscles should not be all the same size nor should you attempt to lift the same amount of weight with each one. The key is to work every muscle as frequently as every other muscle. To correct a cosmetic muscle imbalance such as unevenly developed shoulders, avoid exercises that allow your strong side to compensate for your weak side. Unilateral dumbbell exercises will allow your muscles to develop at the same rate while adding extra sets on your weak side may reduce the imbalance over time.

Muscle imbalances can be serious or not depending on the muscles involved. Taking steps to correct muscle imbalances will improve your overall fitness as well as your appearance while helping to prevent injury.


Related Articles By Cathe:

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Mobility vs. Flexibility: They Aren’t the Same Thing but They’re Both Important

4 Factors That Boost the Risk of Hamstring Injuries

Strength Training: Why You Need to Focus More on Your Posterior Chain

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