Muscle imbalances are something most bros will face in their lifetime. For us guys who insist on lifting heavy sh*t and getting swole, they’re almost inevitable. Especially if you’re a culprit of only training to look good in the mirror.
The best case scenario is that we might look strange. Kind of like those weird freaks who only train one side for the sole purpose of arm-wrestling championships.
At worst, we’re on a fast track to injury. Eventually we become so imbalanced and overcompensated that our bodies break under the stress. Quite literally in fact.
Then it’s weeks or even months spent painfully sulking on the couch, crying into your fifth tub of ice cream before the clock’s even hit 10am. Not that we’ve ever done that… But you get the point.
If the thought of letting gains slip through your fingers because of ignorance or neglect scares the sh*t out of you – keep on reading! This article was put together specifically to keep us gym rats under the bar for longer.
Hell, you’re gonna be more balanced than a levitating Buddhist monk high on a 20 year silent meditation binge. Maybe even aligned better than the entire universe was when our lord and savior Arnold was born. Just follow the simple steps as follows…
Here’s what you can learn from this guide:
- What are muscular imbalances?
- How to spot them
- 5 easy ways to solve the problem
- Conclusion: How to stay imbalance and injury free
If you haven’t guessed already, possessing out of whack musculature is a bad idea. So let’s take a look into what it is, how to spot the signs, and then how to solve them.
What are muscle imbalances?
For muscles to be balanced both the antagonist should be of both equal strength and relative length.
If they are, then the body can move optimally and resume normal function safely. If not, you’re eventually in for a rough ride.
This should also be true in a co-lateral sense. With both sides of the body being equal to each other. For example, the left bicep should be able to lift the same as right.
But, as all the bros who train know, this isn’t always the case.
When muscles fall out of balance with one another, guess what? As you’ve already figured they become unbalanced. That’s obvious, right?
One ultra common example would be that of the chest and back. A lot of guys in the gym churn out chest exercises like they’re the only thing keeping Kim Kardashian’s ass alive. Lawdamercy sweet Jesus smashing a heavenly bench press.
But only the dedicated few put the time into growing G-6 fighter jet-esque wings on their back. That kind of hard work is too much trouble for your average basic bro.
The result isn’t just a cartoonishly developed chest and a weedy excuse for a set of posterior slabs. Enter the realm of rounded shoulders, overuse, overcompensation, and eventually a painful injury…
Yes, we’re talking to you Mr. Mirror Mirror on the Wall! People can see you from all angles by the way, dumb ass, you can’t just train for the front. We all agreed your little legs look silly too. Sort it out, bro!
How to spot the signs
Fortunately for you, spotting the more obvious imbalances can be easy. Much easier than spotting your 300lb powerlifting buddy who only eats salami, wears skunk infused cologne, and is currently on a shower strike, anyway.
Functional Movement Screening Tests
Functional movement screening should be your go-to method for assessing where you’re out of whack. It’s free, easy to do, and can be done at home or anywhere else convenient.
There are seven tests that therapists use within the screening. Each requires the subject to carry out specific movements, which are then marked out of 3.
A score of 3 is given for perfect performance, whereas 0 represents major issues such as a pain response. So if you’re planning on doing this test yourself just be honest about your feelings, bro. That doesn’t mean send any cringe worthy texts to chicks, just don’t lie to yourself.
If you were to pull up the screen up online you’d find assessments for the; Deep Squat, Hurdle Step, In-Line Lunge, Shoulder Mobility, Straight Leg Raise, Trunk Stability Push Up, and Rotational Stability.
Yet there’s another, much simpler way of finding faults in your physique…
The Intuition Test
Just simply recognizing when one opposing muscle is stronger than the other can be an indicator.
Say you know for sure your right bicep easily dominates your left. Your go-to gun can shoot faster and is way more powerful than your back-up pistol. Don’t panic, we’re not spying on you dude! This is in fact really common.
That not-so-subtle piece of information right there should set alarm bells ringing inside your head. Now you know for sure you have to bring that sucker up to speed, or risk gnarly complications in the future.
Spotting where your posture is out of line in a photograph is also an easy assessment.
Stand side-on and get a gym buddy to grab a picture on your camera phone. Maybe keep your clothes on for this one though. It’s purely for your reference only, not thicc booty insta-hoes.
Can you see any part of your upper back? If so, you’ve probably got an overly tight set of pectorals pulling you inwards. Most likely from hammering chest or hunching over a work desk.
How about the belt line? Are your hips level, or tipped backwards or forwards? If so, you’ve got a pelvic tilt issue to attend to right there. Most likely due to an imbalance between your quads, hams, and glutes.
Ultimately, the key to spotting muscle imbalances is to use a combination of honest testing and intuition. SpotMeBro would definitely recommend getting checked out by a professional though, they’re the best way to find impartial advice.
5 Easy Ways to Correct Muscle Imbalances
Now you’ve set your sights on any potential issues, it’s time to wipe them out.
What follows are five easy ways to help iron out the creases of a crumpled body. Hopefully, once you’re finished, you’ll be left behind with a pristine physique optimized for beast-mode performance.
Try each method today and continue to be persistent in your efforts.
Imbalances don’t happen overnight, so they can’t be fixed that quickly either.
Don’t give in if you don’t see results right away. Trust in the process, and keep at it. It’s better to put in the work now, than looking back injured from the sidelines, wishing you had.
#1 – Make like a bro and split
Broscience strikes again as the number one solution to fix all life’s problems. Well, maybe not all, but it can help sort out imbalances.
The technical term for this kind of exercising is known as unilateral movement. And by splitting our limbs and isolating them, we can specifically target troublesome weak areas.
When we only perform multi-joint compound exercises, our strong AF dominating muscles take over.
Just like in some kind of Vikings style battle, the strong lead from the front and claim the glory. They work harder than their lagging friends and are rewarded with greater strength. Kind of like stealing a kill on Call of Duty and claiming the XP.
Think of the right leg pushing harder than the left in a squat. Now imagine the different amounts of stress each is subjected to over time. One side is going to experience more work and therefore micro-tears is it not? Here’s where the imbalances start to progress.
In order to close down the gap between the two sides, isolation exercises should be used. Only when both legs perform identically under the same stress (weight/reps) are they re-aligned. Hopefully at this point your imbalance has been evened out.
#2 – Root for the underdog and embrace your weaknesses
It’s only natural to have favorites. We’ve all got our preferences when it comes to the vital things in life! If you say you haven’t, bruh, you’re lying…
Ass or tiddies? Chest day or leg day? Biceps or, erm, biceps? It’s totally normal, so don’t sweat it. Variety is and will always be the spice of life. So it’s understandable that we like to train one area above all others – especially exercises we suck at.
We’re all born genetically superior in certain places. That’s just mother nature doing her thing.
Dudes who have naturally powerful legs like a juiced-up kangaroo will always prefer leg day. Whilst another bro with broad shoulders and a stocky frame might always hit chest.
But unfortunately, our tendencies to lean in one way or the other don’t go unnoticed. Ultimately leading to imbalances and a less than complete looking physique.
Before you know it other parts of your body are being neglected. Often much worse than your high school math teacher’s dental hygiene. Seriously, what is it with those guys? Anyways, back to the important stuff…
By rooting for the underdog and embracing your weaknesses we can directly tackle imbalances. Not only once they’ve happened, but preemptively too!
So toughen up and flaunt your bad side. After-all, it’s the sum of your entire body that makes up your physique, not just the best bits. Before you know it you’ll be an even bigger beast than before.
#3 – Work on your mobility with a foam roller
So, you’ve identified at the tight as a muthaf*cka that’s pulling you out of sync.
If only there were some kind of stiff Styrofoam cylinder for you to loosen it out on. You know, a sort of self-myofascial release tool that’s both cheap and convenient?
Sounds to us like you need to foam roll the sh*t out of that sucker, bro!
Because a tight muscle is no good for anybody’s joints. Especially not guys looking to train hard, get stacked, and smash 10/10 p*ssy.
Hit the muscles reset button on these muscles by working out the knots present in the high-tension spots. Once they relax, your joints will be able to safely return to a more neutral position.
Now when you next train, the necessary muscle groups will be able to recruit properly without interference. No longer will reduced ROM from tight hips stop you short in the squat rack, or set you up for an overuse injury.
Also, by ironing out the adhesion’s that gunk up the smooth contract/relax mechanisms within our muscle, we can activate them better. That means:
Optimal muscle activation = maximum gains
Nice. That’s what you wanted to hear, right?
For more information on foam rolling for bodybuilding, check out this in-depth article.
#4 – Fix size with volume
Ever been flexing at a party and watching all the women drool like leaking fire hydrants in a monsoon? Quick, someone get a mop and bucket. Maybe make that two.
But then some smart ass comes along with; “You know one’s bigger than the other, bro?” And for once they ain’t talking about your two best pals downstairs.
There’s many reasons why your physiology might not be perfectly symmetrical. It could be occupational, it might be down to overcompensation in the gym, or you might be a little too seriously into self-relief habits.
But we’re not here to judge, just to fix you our stacked sir. All that you need to know is that:
Ramping up the volume is the best way to solve this.
Throw in a few isolation sets during your workout to give the littler limb some love.
An example being performing a couple of isolated chest fly sets on your left side only. Doing this post-bench press to even out your pecs.
Notice how we said sets, and not reps. That’s simply because you won’t want to have to drop down your working weight just to fit in more repetitions. Plus adding fewer reps in sets can be more time efficient.
Keep an eye on your physique in the mirror, ask a trusted gym buddy for their input, and repeat until symmetry is achieved.
#5 – Fix strength with load
This is for the bros who can load fifty grocery bags under one arm, but struggle holding their pre workout shaker in the other. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but the point still stands hombre.
It isn’t uncommon to have one arm, leg, or eyeball, stronger than the other. Therefore, this is an issue of strength and not hypertrophy. Which means we need to look to strength specific training for a solution.
Therefore you should use weight over volume as a method to fix this imbalance.
Lift with your dominant side using a load set up purely for maintenance. Effectively putting the brakes on its development for a short while whilst you fix the opposing muscle.
However, on the slacking side, lift progressively with heavier weights.
By employing progressive overload in this way you will be creating a stimulus for the muscle to adapt. Our bodies are smart and know they must adapt to stress if we are to survive.
When done safely and correctly, your muscle will grow back bigger and stronger to meet the demands. That’s how we get stronger, by constantly challenging ourselves and stepping up the numbers bending the bar.
Conclusion: How to stay imbalance and injury free
As they say; prevention is always better than the cure. So it’s always going to be in your best interest to not become imbalanced in the first place.
You can do this by being vigilant and consistently checking in with your body. Does this feel tight? How are you moving today? Have you noticed a reduced ROM in one certain area?
Another essential tool to keep you leveled out is by varying your programme. Forget hitting the same exact session week in, week out. Add new challenged, hit new angles, and work new muscles.
Finally, take assessment of what you do. If you’re sat over a desk all day consider what it is doing to your shoulders. Alternatively, if you’re a construction worker, do you always carry materials on one side? If so, is it having an impact on your physiology?
It’s up to you to assess your own fleshy home of a physique. Don’t get trapped into buying a one way ticket to injury city. Fix your imbalances today, and enjoy the sweet taste of gains tomorrow. You can thank us later, bro.
For more information on how to optimize your training, check out:
- What Are Mobility Exercises?
- Recover Faster, Perform Better: Lactic Acid Training Drills
- How Often Should You Change Your Bodybuilding Workout Routine?