How to Fix Muscle Imbalances — Do They Matter?

Having some asymmetry in our bodies is natural and by no means a problem… for example, the majority of us are either strongly right- or left-handed, and if we play soccer we soon discover that we have a preferred foot, too! This study shows that pelvic obliquity (often caused by legs of a slightly different length) is present in equal measure in people both with and without Lower Back Pain, and doesn’t seem to be a contributing factor to the problem of back pain.

A famous example of someone who had a big leg length discrepancy was Bruce Lee. It didn’t hold him back very much! To quote him, “I became a martial artist in spite of my limitations. My left leg is almost one inch shorter than the right. That fact dictated the best stance for me — my right foot leading. Then I found because the right leg was longer, I had an advantage with certain types of kicks, since the uneven stomp gave me greater impetus.”

Bruce Lee, who has almost a 1" leg length discrepancy, managed to go far nonetheless.

It is a good bet that having a dominant side is not a significant problem for humans, or we would likely have evolved to be more ambidextrous!

Pete Sampras showing great form. Playing tennis is a very asymmetric activity, but amateurs and professionals alike don’t suffer from it in any obvious way.

As long as our bones and joints stay well aligned and our postural muscles are strong, moderate amounts of muscular asymmetry doesn’t seem to be problematic. However, if our posture and movement patterns have been poor, we are much more likely to develop shears or twists in our bodies, and suffer injury or uneven wear in the joints. Joints or muscles that remain unused because of pain or weakness can degenerate or atrophy, hindering the development of a strong postural base.Because of this, it is worth observing our everyday movements. If you favor one side to the extent that one side of you becomes strong and the other noticeably weaker, or one side is flexible and the other stiff or uncomfortable, applying the Gokhale Method can help redress the balance:

Stretchlying on a Different Side

If it is suitable for your back, give a little more attention to stretchlying on your less favored side, where it is likely that your back muscles are tighter and shorter.

Stretchlying on your less favored side can help even your body out.

Fine-tune Your Hiphinge

Make sure that:

  1. Your weight is evenly distributed between your feet

2. Each knee is bent the same amount

3. Each thigh is externally rotated to the same degree

4. Most importantly, check that your pelvis and torso remain central and that you are not listing to one side.

Be sure that as you bend, your knees point in the same direction as the feet, and that you don’t list to one side.

Glidewalking
When practicing your glute squeezes for glidewalking, usually by raising a leg behind you, it can be helpful to complete more reps on your weaker side. Same with the inchworm exercises for gaining foot strength.

Try to even out unevenness in the strength of your feet by doing more reps on the weak side.

Steps and Stairs
Make sure you do not always climb up steps and stairs with the same leg first. Alternate which leg you start with, and focus on pushing off from behind with the foot.

Alternating which leg you begin climbing stairs with helps eliminate a possible cause of muscle imbalance.

You may also notice that a movement flows well in one direction, and feels awkward in the other direction (for example, opening a door with your non-dominant hand). Practice switching sides from time to time. Beginning with a blank slate will help you reexamine and improve your movement pattern. Being somewhat ambidexterous can improve your overall muscular strength and be helpful in sports and everyday life; it can also help chart new and helpufl neural pathways in your brain.

Do you have activities in your life that are very asymmetric? Have they caused you problems or have you navigated them just fine?

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Originally published at gokhalemethod.com.

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