How Does a Muscle Imbalance Affect the Body?
What does muscle imbalance mean?
The movement and function of the human body requires a balance of muscle length and strength between opposing muscles surrounding a joint – so to put it plainly, muscle imbalances materialise when one muscle is stronger than its opposing muscle. For example, if your job requires that you sit all day working at a computer or you overload your ‘mirror’ muscles (like the chest and abs), your shoulder muscles are more than likely to be drawn forwards resulting in a strength imbalance between the front and back of your body. You may well be sitting reading this thinking “I do that all day and I feel alright”, really? OK – whilst muscle imbalances may not be an issue at first, the real problem transpires over a period of time.
Without a well-balanced body and foundation which is stable and ‘functional', at some point your foundation is going to break down resulting in an injury, and when a muscle is too ‘tight’, the joint has a tendency to move in that direction and is restricted in the opposite direction as this is typically ‘the path of least resistance’. For instance, how often have you been in the working out and notice someone next to you completing the exercise using a poor technique and not focusing on the quality of the technique because too much focus is being placed on how much weight the person can lift? Personally I’ve lost count of the number of times.
And….just a reminder to the ‘posers’ out there, the mirrors are there so you can see yourself and if needed, correct your technique, not to pose in front of, or take the never-ending selfie. Do it at home instead – it’s less embarrassing.
A ‘balanced’ body can also result in good anatomical symmetry – in other words your body looks ‘well-adjusted’ and this to most people, is fairly appealing. Many studies have shown that actual human beauty is defined by symmetry of the facial structure, it’s as though we are generally drawn to a good balance (how good does a healthy bank balance look!). But why is muscle-imbalance so prevalent in society? There are numerous studies that show the increase in a sedentary lifestyle such as sitting for hours in front of a computer, in a car all day or watching too much TV along with the lack of ‘functional’ based exercises could be the main causes. This is especially relevant now due to the world-wide, COVID-19 government imposed restrictions where people are working from home much more regularly.
But the average gym-goer is generally and blissfully unaware of the necessity of functional based training within their routine. How often do you sit on your sofa and mimic the machine chest-press movement? Or sit on the sofa and mimic the machine leg-extension movement? Me? Never, why would I? These are ‘isolated’ exercises and whilst useful for a level of strength building, are not 'natural' movements.
Muscle balance requires symmetry of the body on a micro level, total body functional training with a qualified instructor, who shows and demonstrates the correct techniques, will help you achieve this. Functional training is exactly what it says – functional. Working opposing muscles (e.g. the hamstrings/quads, the biceps/triceps, the abs/back), and then on the macro level, the complete body, will set your body up for working in synergy to perform your normal daily tasks.
However, identifying muscular imbalances can be difficult work. It can take an assortment of fitness and postural assessments to really see what part or parts of the body aren’t functioning correctly. Correcting the issues can be more difficult, in some cases taking weeks or even months to fully rectify. However, it is all worth it – your body foundation will be much stronger and you will be less prone to injury.
You may think it looks good to have just a huge chest (and with those lovely ‘chicken’ legs!) but will this help you in your active daily living? Probably not – but at least your partner has something to sleep on other than their pillow!