There’s more to muscle than just how strong it is; movement and function of a joint relies on a balance of muscle length and strength between opposing muscles that surround it. Muscle imbalances occur when opposing muscles provide different directions of tension due to tightness or weakness, and have the potential to develop into chronic issues or injuries over time.
While it may seem like muscle imbalance is a something that is harmful and should be avoided at all costs, the fact of the matter is that we all experience it, to varying degrees. Nobody is perfectly symmetrical: you may have a dominant leg, pronate more with one leg, or lean slightly to one particular side.
But that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to a less than optimal lifestyle or chronic injuries; it just means that you should take steps to minimise the effect that muscle imbalances may have on you, so that you can nip any potential problems in the bud.
To avoid – and even correct – muscle imbalance, analyse your current workout regime, and find out what muscles each exercise uses. Then, where necessary, make revisions to your exercises or your form when performing those exercises. Make use of the mirrors in the gym to analyse your movement quality, making sure you’re performing the correct movement patterns and transitioning smoothly from one movement to the next.
Unilateral training is a great way to minimise the bilateral deficit (difference in strength between the left and right side of the body). This can be incorporated into just about any exercise, like squats, presses and various upper and lower-body pulls. Another approach is to utilise antagonist supersets – pairing a certain exercise with its “opposite” (e.g. bench presses with dumbbell rows, shoulder presses with chin-ups, bicep curls with tricep extensions, etc.) This promotes a greater muscular balance, especially in the upper body.
Identifying and correcting a muscle imbalance isn’t a process that happens overnight – it’s a commitment that can span across weeks or even months, but doing so will ensure that you build a steady (and balanced) foundation so that you’ll always be at your best!