Every sport, movement and activity creates strength and postural imbalances
All physical activity inevitably contributes to some sort of physical imbalance. It doesn't matter which exercises you perform or what sport you engage in—no form of movement works the body in perfect symmetry. Even simple daily movements like sitting and standing favour different muscles, affecting both our strength and our posture. In other words, just by virtue of moving your body, you contribute to physical imbalances—we are constantly pushing the body out of alignment.
You can't escape this reality. Instead, we must work to find solutions that restore order and balance to our system. These solutions will help reduce our likelihood of injury, relieve chronic pain issues, improve posture and maximize our overall physical performance.
Movement, imbalances and weak links
By creating physical imbalances, we also develop weak links. We must not forget: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. These weak links may cause immediate problems or contribute to issues down the road.
Let’s look at an example to understand how these imbalances and weak links might be created:
Let’s take the sport of soccer. As with any sport, soccer imposes certain physical demands on our body. During soccer, movements like kicking a ball or running tend to exercise muscles in our lower body—specifically, our hips, legs and core. But even our lower body isn't exercised equally—a more precise demand is placed on our dominant side, based on our natural left or right-handedness. Meanwhile, our upper body goes unused. Therefore, while playing soccer, we are creating two main imbalances:
- Between the upper body and lower body
- Between the dominant and non-dominant side of our lower body
Without intervention of some kind, these imbalances will plague the individual, causing overuse injuries, nagging pains and other problems.
Problems with imbalances
Even if physical imbalances don’t cause any immediate issues, eventually, asymmetrical muscle and tension development can lead to wear and tear at the joints—causing inflammation and ultimately leaving these weak areas even more susceptible to serious injury. If we don’t act, our stronger, overdeveloped components will grow stronger while our weaker, underdeveloped components get weaker—creating an even greater discrepancy. Luckily, there are ways to fix and even prevent this.
Solution 1: The power of resistance training for restoring balance
Lifting weights is one of the best ways to help restore order to an imbalanced system. Resistance training allows us to hone in on our specific shortcomings, focusing on any weak links created as byproducts of our regular movements and activities. It gives us the freedom to choose as specific an exercise as necessary to target any areas in need of a boost.
Typical cardio activities like running or biking are extremely general forms of exercise—they don’t allow us to target our muscles with any preciseness. Weight-training, on the other hand, allows us to choose from thousands of exercises to achieve surgeon-like precision for correcting specific imbalances in muscle tension, strength and posture.
For example, tennis players would benefit from exercises chosen to balance all of the weak muscles created by virtue of the specific demands of their sport. By targeting muscles such as the posterior deltoids and the rotator cuff group with the right exercises, sets, repetitions, tempos and rest periods, we can deliver the exact antidote to remedy the imbalances created while playing tennis. This will ultimately create a stronger and more stable shoulder capsule, equating to improved performance with a decreased probability of injury.
Solution 2: The power of stretching for restoring balance
Stretching is one of the most underutilized tools in the fitness toolbox—it’s one of those things we all know we need to do, but never end up doing! While there is a lot of debate about whether it’s best to stretch before a workout, after a workout, first thing in the morning, late at night, etc., it’s most important just to remember to stretch at all!
Whichever time of day works best with your routine is fine, but remember: consistency is the key to getting real results. Stretching once a month is not going to help you develop the flexibility you need. Choose a time that will allow you to get in the habit regularly.
Sometimes, an overly tight muscle is the body’s way of reinforcing against a bigger weakness. For example, the body might tighten the hip flexor muscles as an innate protective mechanism to support and shield a weak lower back. In this instance, stretching these muscles alone might do more harm than good! This is why it’s always a smart idea to meet with a qualified posture and alignment expert who can effectively scope out the situation and tailor a plan accordingly.
While it’s important to understand that movement (exercise, sports and even the general activities of daily living) are always pushing us out of alignment, we must also understand that we can use movement to help restore order and remedy our strength, posture and pain problems. An intelligently-designed program made up of specific exercises and stretches chosen to address our individual requirements can offer us the tools we need to correct our issues.