Preventing Muscle Imbalances
If you’ve looked at the fitness world and kept track of bodybuilders and physique competitors, you’ll notice that they not only strive for that awesome muscular look, but for flawless symmetry as well. Having a balanced and symmetrical body not only has benefits of being aesthetically pleasing, but it simply works better than a body that is not. Having a symmetrical and balanced body is about more than the left and right, more than your biceps, chest, shoulders, and quads being equal size. You need to focus on opposing muscles as well- the back/chest, triceps/biceps, hamstrings/quads, and abs/lower back.
When people hear the phrase muscle imbalance, they immediately think about the left side of the body having slightly larger muscles than the right side. Though that is true to a point, they don’t know that it goes deeper than just physical appearance of the left and right . Opposing muscular imbalances can severely restrict physical performance and may lead to severe problems as we age. You have to remember that we are not a 2D picture. Sure, from the front, the body can look symmetrical and balanced because the right and left arms are developed to even size. But this body probably walks around hunched over because the back muscles are underdeveloped and aren’t strong enough to support a massive chest. This causes shoulders to roll forward, horrible posture, and can cause back problems. Do you know anybody like that? These are the muscle imbalances that I’m talking about.
Muscular imbalances mainly exist because most don’t train for mobility and function, they usually only train the glamour muscles such as chest, arms, abs, and shoulders and tend to neglect other muscle groups. Performing too many isolation movements and focusing on a single body part for each day of the week, if inexperienced is the most common way to create a physical muscle imbalance with your body.
For example, a guy that has massive and strong legs from doing leg extensions, hamstring curls, and calf raises for a year might notice that he has trouble doing barbell squats with even light or moderate weight when he attempts the exercise for the first time. This is because he has never performed the exercise and his hamstrings and quad muscles DO NOT know how to work in unison with each other to physically lift his weight and complete the movement. Isolation exercises do not improve your physical performance for day to day activities such as sports and recreation.
So how do you go about preventing muscle imbalances and increase mobility and function for everyday things?
Simple: forget what you see in the muscle building magazines and on bodybuilding websites. Start a routine that revolves around performing compound movements (movements that utilize more than one muscle group at a time). Exercises such as squats, barbell rows, dead lifts, bench presses, and shoulder presses should be your foundation when you start a workout. This will also allow you to build up strength and size quicker than if you were to do countless sets of dumbbell curls.
You also need to work muscles equally. Sure you might want that bigger chest or bigger arms to impress the girls, and it might be tempting to throw in an extra chest day instead of legs, but you cannot neglect your legs. The reason being is that when the jeans come off and the shorts go on in the summer, you’re going to look downright silly. Don’t be one of those guys that need to play catch up later in life, or have to spend a lot of time fixing a muscle imbalance because their one muscle group is severely limiting them physically or appearance wise.
Focus on building a strong and functional body, and size will usually follow.