In the body you have muscles that oppose each other. The bicep flexes the arm at the elbow, the tricep extends the arm. A muscle imbalance is simply one of the muscles being stronger than the other.
Why do we care?
Injuries & pain are the reason we want to fix imbalances.
Back ache, neck pain, dodgy shoulders, bad knees are usually the result of imbalances. There are instances where this isn't the case such as a car crash, however, if your upper body is in the position of an Upper Cross Syndrome (discussed below), then you're more likely to be injured in the car crash than someone in a good postural position.
When you see a footballer pull up and hold his hamstring, when you bend over to pick something up off the floor and your back ‘goes’ it’s because there’s an imbalance.
Small differences have to be compensated for somewhere else, and these compensations slowly add up. That last sprint or that last movement to pick something up was essentially the straw that broke the camels back.
Ideally, we want to fix these imbalances before something major happens. It takes much less time, effort & money to fix a problem before it’s happened. Prevention is much better than needing a cure.
This part can be tricky. You can identify muscle imbalances through assessing posture, observing how someone moves & testing muscle lengths/tensions.
As an example, if you see someone squat like in the photo below (heels lifting), you can be pretty certain they have an imbalance around the hips.
Upper Cross Syndrome
This is an extremely common imbalance. The risk of injury and pain in the neck, shoulders & spine are much more likely in a person who looks like this.
There’s a lot of potential for neck pain, upper back pain & shoulder pain when in this position. Which may take 10 years before it shows up, but the quicker you address the issue, the easier it is to fix and the more potential pain you avoid.
The reason why we end up in this position is because we spend far too much sat at desks & on sofas looking at screens.
We generally end up with short & tight Upper Abs, Pecs & Neck Extensors and long & weak Upper Back & Neck Flexors muscles.
This is what we should be seeing. We're much less likely to get injured or be in pain looking like this.
The pelvis can be in a lot of different positions. We’re going to cover two that are opposite to each other.
A Flat Back Posture is common in people who are sat down a lot. People with desk jobs are the most common that we see.
In this instance, you have the Glutes & Hamstrings that are short & tight & the Hip Flexors, Quads & Lower Back that are long and weak. Here’s what it looks like-
A Lower Cross Syndrome is the opposite to a Flat Back and looks like this-
In this instance, the Hip Flexors, Quads & Lumbar Erectors are the short and tight muscles and the Glutes, Hamstrings & Lower Abs are the long, weak muscles.
This is what it should look like.
Other examples of muscle imbalances could be as simple as having one shoulder higher than the other.
Firstly, you need to identify whether it’s a high shoulder on that side, a low shoulder on the other side or a Scoliosis (side bend) in the spine.
Causes for having one high shoulder could be carrying a bag on one side or sitting at a desk a certain way. It could even be as simple as handedness. A right handed person is more likely to have a low right shoulder. A left handed person is more likely to have a low left shoulder.
How To Fix Imbalances
The principles for fixing imbalances are fairly straight forward. It’s a 3 step process.
1. Identify which muscles are short & tight & which muscles are long & weak.
2. Stretch the short & tight muscles. Strengthen long & weak muscles.
3. Make lifestyle adjustments to avoid slipping back in to the poor position.
It can a little more complicated but if you stick to that formula, you should have some great success.
If you suspect you have a muscle imbalance, if you’re in pain, if you want to improve your performance & you don’t know what to do, get in touch with us.
We’ll help in whatever way we can.