Exercising to Fix Muscle Imbalances
Why do I say that….that “Fixing Muscle Imbalances is Easy?” I say this because, if you start with the approach I recommend below, you will feel better THIS WEEK. And that is easier than what you are currently doing….which is dealing with lots of pain. See my approach below – life’s going to get much better for you.
Muscle imbalances are the root of most muscle and joint pain, and may easily be corrected without surgery. As we extend our lifespans through modern medicine and health awareness, our musculoskeletal system gets used and beat up for many more years nowadays, much more than it used to.
Pretend that you have muscles in your spine (below) that are tighter on one side than on the other. The cause could be one leg that’s shorter, something MOST of us have, perhaps you previously played contact sports, or simply payed little attention to good posture, immersing that’s more and more common today. The effect will ultimately be back and joint trouble if this isn’t dealt with by someone who works with postural alignment, is certified in FMS, or has physiotherapy experience. I deal with this every day in my practice – easy to fix, but not easy if ignored.
Do we have any Tennis, golf, bowling, baseball, or basketball players here? If you have ever played or play a sport (past or present) where one side of your body is favored, you probably have muscle imbalances that cause you pain. Even if you haven’t played any of the above sports, most of us were born with one leg longer than the other, which sooner or later lends to back, his and knee pain, as the muscles that are shorter on one side of your body, keep you out of alignment, acting on your skeleton over time into further misalignment. Most of us have one leg that’s longer to some degree and it’s easily detected with an FMS screen. Whether it’s back, neck, shoulder, hip/sciatica, knee or hip pain, the root cause is usually these muscle imbalances.
Fixing muscle imbalances is easy. The problem we have in our fat and lazy culture is laziness and excuses. Finger pointing is also a good one that’s sure to keep you in pain – “It’s the doctor’s fault, my gym is smelly, I don’t have time etc.” I’m not speaking right now to those who have these excuses – I have plenty of willing athletes/clients who have gotten out of pain, and none of them were the crying, complaining type, but rather, the type who have taken healthy action in their lives.
Where to start with an exercise programme?
To do this you must take a new approach to exercise until you’re better. Here’s the system I recommend. I encourage each one of you to approach this in your own unique way – but these are excellent guidelines and where you should start.
- Get a correct diagnosis of your musculoskeletal pain from a Doctor,Physiotherapist,A Respected Chiropractor,or an FMS certified Personal Trainer or Chiropractor.
- Build a team to help you. You will need a gifted and respected Chiropractor to adjust your skeletal misalignments, but will need to do the muscle re-lengthening work on your own or with a Personal Trainer (and a good Massage Therapist – more on this below), so that your skeleton does not get pulled out of alignment over and over again. Find someone who is willing to work with you who is qualified. As an FMS Certified Personal Trainer, I spend much of a 55 minute session with folks correcting these muscle imbalances, incorporating stretching and exercise techniques, some of which are outlined in my previous blogpost Muscle Imbalance Exercises. This is not something that can be fixed in the Chiropractors office, nor the Doctors office, or even the Physiotherapists. BUT, you will need all of the above to diagnose you and re-allign you from time to time. Re-lengthening the muscles as outlined in the above link, takes months and months to fix, although relief starts happening immediately, the pain subsiding dramatically. Believe me, when pressure is taken off of the joints through the proper exercises and protocols, the relief is immediate and people get almost euphoric when pain starts to leave their body. Let’s look at the below diagrams for one minute…..
If it’s YOUR body in the above diagrams, and if it’s the left side that has one short leg (left being the left side as you look at the diagram), this will cause your hips to sag down on the left side. All of the muscles in the above chart will become shorter, and many more, including the Psoas, Adductors,your IT Band,Illiacus etc. This muscle shortness will cause the phenomenon illustrated in the diagram shown above, effectively holding your hips out of position, causing misalignment and slippage of the Sarcoiliac/Iliosacral joint, the knee, the shoulder, the ankle, rib cage and most importantly,the spine including subluxations which, even after your Chiro treats them, will pop right back out due to these imbalances until they are finally addressed the proper way. Tightness in one side of the hip is also the leading cause of sciatica. These must ALL be re-lengthened (go to the the link above to my previous article to see the process),and this is all done during your exercise routine. It takes a few minutes extra, but you can get this done done in the gym or on a nice patch of grass with a scenic view at least,and not with an expensive Physio, and not in a hospital. Now look at the diagram above on the left. If your left leg is shorter, causing the hip to sag downwards on the left, then the muscles above your hip, up your back and all the way to your neck, will possibly need to be lengthened due to becoming shorter and tighter. The muscles below the hip will also need to be lengthened for the same reasons.
3. So,after you visit my blogpost, Muscle Imbalance, where I outline precisely this process,your next step is to work with a Massage Therapist. The Massage therapist will help re-shape and re-align your body, getting your muscles loose, bringing blood to them that is currently being constricted by poor muscle quality, tightness, knots and adhesions. Skip the massage,and this will take much much longer.
4. Understand that having a team is crucial, as none of the above professionals alone can fix you.
The Doctor diagnosis you.
The Chiropractor adjusts your skeleton
The Personal Trainer prescribes exercises and stretches, coaches on form and function – so more long term work.
The Massage Therapist, who is licensed to work on you with their hands, brings blood to the muscles, reshapes them, realigns them, and makes your body loose, and malleable.
(None of the above can, nor has the capacity to do all three jobs, yet all three are very necessary, when re-lengthening large muscle groups, and effectively changing the way you walk on this earth, and through this good life.)
As a side note, and possibly more on this for another blog post – here are a few things that CAN and WILL cause muscle imbalances:
Pretty much anything you do in life, that you do unconsciously, including –
Sitting with bad posture
Always sleeping on the same side
Drinking too much (these above two are documented over and over again, and are shown to directly affect posture, and hence muscle imbalances.
Working out with improper form
Sitting too much without breaks
Inadequate exercise in your daily routine
Improper exercise protocols (too much pushing, not enough pulling), too much emphasis on hypertrophy, not enough full body movements such as deadlifts and sumo squats, which are recommended by the worlds top Olympic Coaches, as well as Physiotherapists and Doctors
Playing sports like golf, tennis etc, where the demand is placed primarily on one side of the body – this is sure to land you at the Chiro!
(In February of this year, I met a highly successful Chiropractor in San Jose del Cabo, while enjoying a beer and some mandolin at my favorite Tapas bar by the ocean. He was extremely well connected, having lived there and thrived for the last 20 years. He said that his approach is simple – he tells the golfers that they need to stop golfing for 9 months in order to be fixed. 100% of them tell him to go to hell. Then they come back and get fixed when they’re finally done golfing with pain, when they’re ready to they can live and feel well again, and play their best!)
By Dan Piper, CPT, RKC, FMS Workout4Results.com