Do you perform the same functions at your job day in and day out? Do you regularly perform similar movement patterns in the gym when working out? Repeating the same patterns over and over allows your body to become incredibly efficient with those movements but can create muscular imbalances. Are you recovering from an injury you’ve been dealing with for awhile? Chances are you’ll have some muscular imbalances from compensating movement patterns. You’ll even naturally have imbalances between your right and left sides due to being right or left hand dominant. You won’t be able to get everything completely balanced, but working on and reducing muscular imbalances reduces risk for injury.
Imbalance and Injury
You’ve heard of elite athletes, football players, sprinters, etc., “pulling” a hamstring. One of the contributing factors for this injury could be do to the strength imbalances between the quadriceps complex (think front of the thigh) and hamstrings complex. True, the hamstrings are naturally a little weaker than the quads, but too great a strength deficit can lead to injury. It can be hard to recognize these imbalances until it’s too late. If you’re used to using a barbell to perform exercises, it may be difficult to recognize strength imbalances between the right and left side of the body. If all of your exercises have you supported by a bench, it may be hard to find instability. So, switch things up a little bit. Look for instabilities and work on correcting them before they become an issue.
My Left Arm (I promise this is relevant)
I’ve talked about this before, but a little over a year ago I had a C5-6 herniation that limited the capacity of my left arm to perform work. It had already been a little weaker as it was. After recovering from this injury there were notable strength differences and differences in shoulder stability. When you get injured, it’s always the weakest link that gives way first. Last thing I needed was a rotator cuff tear. I had to get working on improving the strength and stability of my left shoulder. The funny thing was, I didn’t really notice it when performing traditional exercises such as the push-up, barbell bench press…exercises like that. Here’s when I noticed the differences; when I worked focusing only on my left shoulder/arm.
Fixing Muscular Imbalances
Stretch and foam roll. If you have muscle tissue that is tight and overactive; warm-up a little bit, foam roll, then stretch those muscles out. Performing these activities help ensure a full range of motion, reducing injury risk. After stretching out the overactive muscles (if needed), strengthen up those that are under active and not performing as they should be. A muscle I see as commonly being weak on individuals is the gluteus medius. Strengthen those guys up! You’re knees/hips/ankles will thank you!
Isolate the area. Don’t worry about huge compound movements and moving tons of weight when working on correcting imbalances. Pick a really light weight or resistance band. Start slowly. Focus on the movement pattern and recruiting the proper muscles. Are all of your bones/joints lined up properly during the exercise? Is everything activated properly. Just go slowly!
My Favorite Corrective Exercises
- Bottoms Up Kettlebell Shoulder Press
- Bottoms Up Kettlebell Chest Press
- Pull Aparts (all variations, depending what needs worked)
- Band Walks / Monster Walks
- Internal/External Rotation w/ resistance bands
- Cable Scapular Retraction
- Cable Scapular Depression
- Bulgarian Split Squat (Not really a “corrective exercise”, but you’ll see the difference in balance between your right and left legs.)