Muscle imbalances are when you train or live in one plane of movement creating imbalances in your muscles and in turn usually results in injury or chronic pain. This commonly happens when you do something with a repetitive movement in one direction (like running the same direction on a track or the same side of the road) or using only one side of your body (any throwing sport or kicking sport). This can also happen from simply living your life, such as sitting/leaning to one side while at work, or always carrying your bag on the same shoulder.
Your body starts to remodel your sarcomere's based on your movements overtime, and will start to shorten or lengthen your muscles, creating tightness in your body. When your body is not able to move through all planes comfortably, your range of motion starts to disappear and that is when injury starts to begin. Research suggest that the risk of injury increases in individuals who run, participate in sport or engage in more than 1.25 hours a week of physical activity.
So how do we make sure your muscles don't get unbalanced? This is very simple. Most people workout or live in only one plane, which causes the repetitive motion and causes the imbalances. This is something I don't believe is stressed enough especially by personal trainers or strength coaches, and that is, that you must train your body in all three planes of movement.
The three planes of movement are transverse, sagittal, and frontal. Every time you exercise, you should try to hit all three plans.
Other ways to decrease muscle imbalances are:
- Always do single leg and single arm movements
- If you have one side that is stronger than than the other, use the lower weight that both sides can do comfortable. Your weaker side will eventually be just as strong as the other
- Work on your mobility and flexibility
- Come see an exercise physiologist
Exercise Physiologist will take steps to minimizing potential risk via proper assessment, client education, and exercise program design to help you live a injury and pain free life!