blog 5 Tips for Treating Muscle Imbalances

5 Tips for Treating Muscle Imbalances

Sean Lake

about 1 month ago

Have you ever caught yourself in the mirror and noticed that for all the time you spend on leg day, your quads are looking way more developed than your hamstrings? Maybe you even feel it when you are working out–you know that you just aren’t getting the burn that you should, where you should. It may be that you are experiencing a muscle imbalance.

Types of muscle imbalances

There are two main types of muscle imbalances:

  • Body muscle imbalances

    occur when muscle groups lack symmetry and a muscle or muscle group on one side of the body is bigger or stronger than the other side.

  • Joint muscle imbalances

    occur when the muscles responsible for controlling a joint becomes too loose or tight and limit movement.

What causes muscle imbalances

Muscle imbalances are the result of some muscles working harder than others, which is why it is so important to work out both sides (front and back and left and right), whether that’s in our weightlifting routine or yoga practice. Practicing proper form and a balanced exercise routine is essential. That being said, many times they are the result of how we live our daily lives, including overuse of certain movements, inactivity, and even bad posture. Another factor is focusing too heavily on one muscle group while neglecting another. This may seem inconsequential at first, but muscle groups work together. If one group is stronger than the other, for example, your biceps are stronger than triceps or quads stronger than hamstrings, you may experience a lack of stability in your movement that can lead to injury.

Correcting muscle imbalances

Sometimes, some muscles just work harder than others, but this can become a problem when it hinders other muscle groups’ development or even causes strain and injury. Here are five tips for how to recover.

  1. Let your weak side take the lead

    If you know which side of your body is weaker, this is the place to start. Give it a little more attention by working it out first. As you tire, your body will want to divert the bulk of its work to your stronger side. Get ahead of the game by working out the weaker side first. Your weaker side should also determine how heavy you lift and how many reps you complete. While it may be tempting to complete more reps on your stronger side, don’t. This will continue to make your muscle imbalance worse. Eventually, your strength will even out and you can begin to introduce more weight and more reps bilaterally.

  2. Work your weak side a little more

    While your weak side should set the pace for your stronger side, your weaker side may also need a little extra work, with higher weight or more reps.

  3. Focus on muscle activation

    Just like any machine, muscles have to turn on or activate to work. This body-brain connection allows us to work and move efficiently. Sometimes, our bodies don’t quite make that connection, and one group of muscles works harder than another. This is common in squats when the quads end up bearing more of the load than the glutes and hamstrings. This may be one factor in muscle imbalances. Using muscle activation techniques can help wake up those sleepy muscles so that they bear their fair share of the weight.

  4. Use unilateral exercises

    Many typical weightlifting routines use bilateral movements, or movements that use both sides of the body. Think of your typical bench press or lat pull-down bar where both hands are on the bar and both sides of your body are engaged. The problem with this is that if you have a muscle imbalance, your body will naturally rely on the stronger side to do most of the work, and the problem will persist. Instead, try working out with unilateral exercises, or exercises that work one side at a time. This means switching out the barbell to dumbbells and free weights. You may be shocked by how much harder your workout gets.

  5. Add variety

    Muscle imbalances are often the result of repetitive motions, which is why they are so common in athletes who typically rely on one side, like golfers or baseball players. This is why cross-training is so essential. If you participate in a sport that leans heavily on one part of your body, make sure you have a comprehensive weight training routine, or take up another activity, such as yoga or pilates, that can help you lock in a full-body workout.

The problem with muscle imbalances

Muscle imbalances are more than just cosmetic issues, they can lead to:

  • Injury in the joints, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues

  • Muscle tension

  • Painful posture

  • Poor balance

Let’s do a test

It’s time to check in with your body. There are a few ways of identifying muscle imbalances.

  • First, take a look in the mirror. Is one hip or shoulder higher than the other? Is one side of your body bigger or more defined?

  • Second, try some unilateral exercises. If one side can lift or do the work with ease while the other struggles, it's time to start adjusting your training.

  • Finally, reflect. Do you notice that you use one arm more than the other throughout the day or through your workout? Do you spend more time on your chest than on your back? You may notice imbalances simply by taking inventory of your movements.

Waking up with BUBS

As you wake up your muscles for a great workout, consider MCT oil. MCT, or medium-chain triglycerides, are made from coconut oil and provide the body with immediate energy. BUBS Naturals MCT Oil powder mixes into coffees and other liquids smoothly and is gluten-free, vegan, and Whole-30 approved.