Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness by the Fire: Muscle Imbalance and the effects for weight loss and fitness training

by Ron Kennedy • January 10, 2018
As a knowledgeable fitness enthusiast, you know that you can’t just go into the gym without a plan and start throwing the weights around, right? Considering this article is written by a local fitness professional, I think that is a very safe assumption. Yet have you ever wondered how much planning and preparation goes into a strength training session? Do you realize that there is a reason for the order, repetitions, and weights for the exercises you tirelessly perform? More importantly, do you understand the importance of this science in order to get stronger… while still avoiding injury?

The secret to weight loss, gaining strength, and avoiding injury, especially to the joints, is to balance the work you do on muscle groups. The major muscle groups work in pairs and those muscle pairs need to be balanced in terms of strength and flexibility. When we begin a workout routine with a new client, we begin to teach about the three plains of the body and their importance. Those plains are the Frontal plain, which separates the muscles from front to back (chest muscles in the front, and back muscles are their counterpart in the rear). The Transverse plain, which separates upper and lower body muscles. And finally (in my humble opinion) the most important plain, the Sagittal plain, which separates muscles from the right to left side of the body.
Whenever you begin to pursue an advanced weight loss or strength training program, it is crucial to balance the exercises for one muscle in the pair against the other. Never neglect one muscle while strengthening its partner. This leads to imbalance and injury.

Why is Muscle Balancing So Important?

Most people walk into a gym and ‘experiment’ on the machines having no idea how important it is to achieve balance. When muscles are unbalanced, you use your joints incorrectly and cause wear, tear, and damage over time. Unbalanced muscles can also cause pain.

As an example, think of a weight lifter who is really focused on his pectorals (chest muscles). He spends less time on the traps. When he stands or walks, he stoops forward because his pecs are stronger than his traps. Now add to that an office job where most of his work consists of leaning over to see a computer screen, which causes the traps to further relax. He has promoted imbalance within both muscle groups, so the next time he goes to press that 250 lbs. on the bench press… The result? Poor posture and eventually neck and back pain.

“That only applies to hardcore body builders” you say?

Knee damage and pain is rather common (and something most of us can relate to). You can help avoid it by balancing the training of your hip, abductors, and adductors. When these muscle groups are balanced and strong, they pull the tendons holding the kneecap into place, which reinforces the strength of the muscle. If either of these muscles are weaker, the kneecap gets pulled out of place, and the result is pain and possibly even injury if you move the wrong way.

How to achieve good muscle balance

So how does this work?  If you Google “Body Balance” you will see a lot of advertising for vitamins, pilates, and well marketed home fitness videos. Yet, with all my experience in bodybuilding, as well as 16 years of experience as a personal trainer, I know that the best balance comes from weight training period!  The very best way is to achieve total fitness and muscle balance is a combination of cardiovascular exercise and weight training in a gym.  Weight training offers specific possibilities to achieve balance over and above any other form of exercise.

Of course, you can’t just weight train any old way. You must train each side of your body PROPERLY! Not a day goes by when working with our fitness clients in the gym that I don’t mention my favorite fitness word… Biomechanics!

Everyone has a weaker side, and a weaker muscle within each of the pairs listed above. The key to achieving body balance and avoiding injury is to strengthen up the weaker muscle and then to train each equally once you achieve that balance.

Discover where your lacking strength.

Achieving stability and balance isn’t tricky. You just have to understand which muscles are weaker and focus your efforts there. Most people have natural imbalances due to the way we move throughout the day.

For example, most people have weaker triceps then biceps because of how we lift things. We tend to have weaker gluteals than iliopsoas because we walk forwards more than backwards. Most people are weaker on the left side of the body because most of us are right-handed. Once you understand these natural imbalances, you can simply focus more effort on the weaker muscles until they are balanced out with the others.

Repetitions and Weights

There will always be debate in the fitness industry over repetitions versus weights. Some people like to use heavier weights with fewer reps, while others sing the praises of lighter weights and more reps.You’ll find me in the latter camp.  Bodybuilders and powerlifters who focus primarily on heavy resistance and low repetitions can be more vulnerable to tendinitis. By using slightly lighter weights with a repetition range generally around 8 to 15 repetitions, you can achieve muscle gains while also strengthening tendons and avoiding injury.To really push muscle conditioning in a particular area, I typically have our clients get into high-rep burnouts that are timed: lighter weights with higher repetitions.

The importance of balance in muscular strength can’t be undervalued. By strengthening every part of every muscle, you get sleek, strong, balanced bodies and avoid injury and pain.