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Understanding Muscle BalanceUnderstanding Muscle Balance


Understanding Muscle Balance

Muscle balance is important to support joints and reduce injury. It is achieved with well-designed resistance training and cardiovascular programs that strengthen opposing muscle groups.

Causes of muscle imbalance

Muscle imbalance is the result of overtraining one muscle group while undertraining another. This can occur due to repetitive activities. For example, if running is your only activity, over time you may experience weakness in the hamstrings. Your exercise preferences may also play a role. If you enjoy bicep training, but dislike training your triceps, you may not put forth an equal effort with each exercise or you might skip the ones you dislike all together. Over time, strong muscle groups may overcompensate for weaker muscle groups leading to an even greater imbalance.

Signs of muscle imbalance

Decreased muscle balance due to repetitive activities or a poor strength training program can take time to show. Sometimes it is visible in your posture. When standing, one hip or shoulder may be higher than the other. Your shoulders may be rounded or your spine may be curved. Muscle imbalance can also result in pain, especially in the knee joint and lower back.

How to gain better muscle balance

Improving muscle balance requires a commitment to a well-rounded exercise program that equally trains all muscle groups. By expanding the focus of your workouts and recognizing training habits that cause imbalance, you can improve strength, decrease pain, and reduce the risk of injury.

  • Cross-train: Reduce repetitive activities by adding variety to your workouts. For example, continue to run, but work in biking, hiking or water sports to switch up the muscles you target.
  • Don’t skip out: Avoid skipping strength exercises you don’t like. You could be ignoring important muscles. Talk with a trainer about alternatives that will effectively challenge each muscle group.
  • Train each side: Sometimes stronger muscles on one side of the body will work harder, reducing the challenge to the same muscle group on your other side. Add exercises that strengthen one side of the body at a time. For example, instead of a barbell bicep curl with both hands, try single dumbbell curls with a weight in each hand.
Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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