Improve Muscle Balance and Stability Part 1
What is Muscle Balance?
This concept, unfortunately, is the most underemphasized aspect of many fitness programs everywhere. What is muscle balance really? How do you test it? What the heck does it have to do with stability and performance? Well, let’s take a moment to explain why this concept is important.
First of all, we must understand that all joints in the body must be aligned properly to be able to absorb shock, allowing forces to dissipate into the ground, and decrease wear and tear. Muscles surrounding the joint must have optimal amounts of tension in all directions to hold the joint in its place. If the muscles are not balanced, the joint position is altered and the arthrokinematics of the joint are also altered. If the joint is not moving properly due to poor muscle balance, then assisting muscles (synergists) must do extra work to help stabilize the joint. Over time, the synergists that continue to be overloaded will become ischemic, constricted, and may develop chronic, painful trigger points. This means that the muscles will suffer from a lack of blood flow and eventually lose the ability to completely clear waste products from the tissue and will lead to pain, dysfunction, and overall, decreased performance.
Obviously, if a joint hurts, and you still lift weights, you will avoid the painful range and will alter your movement pattern to accommodate the weak joint. This problem can snowball into problems in other joints due to faulty movement patterns and decreased neuromuscular control. This is seen in many common injuries such as tennis elbow and golfers elbow, which can lead to over-compensation in the shoulder, lower back, and other joints. We must keep in mind that the entire body functions as one unit.
How do we test muscle balance? In my practice, I use a variety of techniques and measurements to be exact. You, however, don’t need any fancy equipment or measurement devices. You will look at the posture of your client. This will give you everything you need to determine which muscles are weak and which are tight. I suggest that you analyze your client when they don’t know you are doing it. If they know that you are analyzing their posture, they will try to fix it. First, take a look at your client from the front.
- Does your client’s head tilt to one side?
- Are your client’s shoulders level?
- Are your client’s hips level?
- Does your client have flat feet, causing their knees to collapse?
Now from the side:
- Does your client’s head jut forward?
- Does your client have rounded shoulders or do they seem to be slouched forward?
- Does your client seem to have a pelvis that tips forward, causing excessive lower back curvature?
Before we go about correcting these imbalances in the next installments of this series, go out and identify the postural imbalances that I have mentioned here. This will make you aware of what I am talking about and will lay a base for understanding the concepts to come.
Read Part 2: Faulty Alignment of the Head, Neck, Shoulder Complex
Read Part 3: Faulty Alignment of the Pelvis