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Understanding Muscle BalanceUnderstanding Muscle Balance


Understanding Muscle Balance

Balanced muscles help support joints and reduce injury. Well-designed resistance training and cardiovascular programs that strengthen opposing muscle groups can help keep your muscles balanced.

Causes of muscle imbalance

Muscle imbalances can result from overtraining one muscle group while undertraining another. For example, if running is your only exercise, your quads may become very strong, but you might experience relative weakness in your glutes and hamstrings over time. This could lead to knee pain or a strained muscle.

Your exercise preferences may also play a role. If you enjoy bicep training but dislike training your triceps, you may not give equal effort with each exercise, or you might skip the ones you dislike altogether.

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 reduce the risk of injury, improve strength, and decrease pain.

  • 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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