Very few human beings are perfectly balanced when muscle is concerned.
We all have muscular imbalances to some degree or another. Often it is simply a difference between right and left, particularly concerning all the major arm muscles. We are either right-handed or left-handed. Few, if any are truly and naturally ambidextrous. Sure some people learn to become ambidextrous to some degree or another (usually exclusive to a particular movement pattern) sport – for example.
But we all have a dominant side, it’s natural!
The great body-builders of present day and history can be an exception to the rule. Because, muscular symmetry is critical to their profession. They are judged strongly on that very principal. Therefore they train…..rather neurotically to combat all muscular imbalances.
I’m pretty confident many of you may have seen this photo circulating on various social media platforms…..particularly Facebook! Also, if I might add – with some pretty hilarous captions often attached to it! I’ll spare the details (I’m sure you’ve seen them!)
Obviously that picture is grossly exaggerated. This picture is a much more sensible demonstration of what is commonly seen:
As is obvious, the subject of the picture has significantly more muscle in their right arm as opposed to their left.
This is so common, as a fun experiment, stand in front of a mirror, shirtless or roll your sleeves up. Perform the classic Bicep flex pose!
I bet you won’t have to do too much detailed inspection to notice an evident difference? Whichever your dominant arm, 99 times out of 100, it’ll be biggest!
However, in-balanced muscles aren’t limited exclusively to uni-lateral body parts
As many muscle building enthusiasts will attest……..lagging body parts present an obtrusive obstacle!
Small legs in relation to torso is often…….and I’m sorry to say this, but it’s true; is due to laziness! We don’t like leg training, it’s hard, it’s brutal, it’s seriously taxing – the legs contain HUGE muscles that seriously deplete glycogen!
For those of you dedicated souls who never skip leg day, but may have other “weak” body parts, fear not, I’ve got your back!
Never feel your Lats? Can’t isolate the Chest?
Those two issues are common questions to trainers and forums all over. It’s simply because when training these muscles, the exercises associated are very often movements that incorporate other assistance muscles.
- Lats: The good old Biceps and Forearms often join the party and thus, the Lats get to “take it easy”
- Chest: In many Chest themed movements, the Triceps and Deltoids take the buck from the chest and share the workload. In fact, often they do more than share…..they completely STEAL the workload and the Chest gets to have an easy afternoon!
Now that just will not do!
Another very common reason or explanation for the workload not being divided equally, is certain muscles involved are stronger than the target muscle. Your astoundingly smart body knows exactly which muscles are strongest and will always recruit those in favour of the weaker ones.
Getting the weaklings to work!
Here are some practical, easy to grasp tips to tackle the issue of unbalanced muscles, weak body parts and those who cannot feel certain muscles:
- In-balanced muscles? 1 side larger and much stronger than the other? The solution: Train these body parts (for example arms, shoulders, legs) uni-laterally and apply the WEAK SIDE rule! ALWAYS start with the weaker side first, so if you were doing concentration curls for Biceps and your weakest side was your left…..you would do your reps on that side first and then do the stronger side. Also, if you only manage a certain number of reps on the weak side, DO NOT exceed that number on the strong side! This allows the weaker side to “catch up”
- Can’t “isolate” a muscle? The solution: Try intentional, pronounced isometric contractions. Basically, hold the contracted position for a specific time frame. If you’re having trouble feeling your Lats work on back exercises, employ a 4-8 second hold in the shortened position. For one arm row’s, this would be “at the top”. Obviously you will have to lighten the weight you use, so forget your ego! This is about switching these muscles “on”. This can be applied for any muscle group!
- Still can’t feel a muscle? An extra solution: If you have the blessing of a regular training partner, ask your training partner to simply tap/touch the particular muscle you’re attempting to target. It’s amazing how just a subtle touch to the Lats (for example) instantly enables you to feel the muscle work! Give that a try! Our muscles are very responsive to touch.
- Dominant muscles “doing all the work”? The solution: As mentioned before, often when performing compound movements, the body and nervous system will recruit the STRONGEST muscles first to provide most of the workload. For example: you may have really over-active Quadriceps that do all the work during squats, and you wish to bring the Glutes into the equation. A good way to reduce the hyperactivity of the Quads is to simply stretch them (statically) thoroughly beforehand. This will “deaden” them to a certain degree and reduce their excess output. By “deadening” the quads, your body will naturally be more inclined to look elsewhere for other muscles to “get the job done” this in turn, will enable the Glutes to fire more than usual! This technique can be applied to all types of movements. If you have weak Shoulders (like me) and overly strong Triceps (also like me) and you want your Shoulders to work harder in pressing movements, you could statically stretch your Triceps prior to your pressing movements.
Some of these you may or may not have heard of, but I urge you to try them, I’ve found from personal experience that they do, indeed work.
So please put some of these methods into practice, I would very intrigued as to your results!
Get on the right path and get moving towards a more balanced and functional body!