Best Exercises to Address Muscular Imbalances
We all have training biases that ultimately can lead to muscle imbalances. If left unchecked, these imbalances can impact performance and lead to an increased risk of injury. I asked nine of the best rehab and fitness professionals I know to share what they use as “the best exercises to address muscular imbalances”.
Shown here are Yoak Pushups but really ANY exercise done on The Yoak will help balance out muscular imbalances. The instability on this piece of equipment is insane and if one side of the body is producing more force than the other, balance will quickly be thrown off!
Lateral lockoffs are a stellar exercise to prevent strength imbalances, especially for those looking to increase core recruitment during pulling exercises. They build total body core strength by targeting your lats, glutes, obliques, TAs and diaphragm all at the same time and very intensely. Give it a try to find out if your side strength matches your front and back strength.
Dr. Sarah Duvall, PT, DPT, CPT
One Arm Cable Press
The One Arm Cable Press popularized by spine biomechanist Dr. Stuart McGill combines pressing and core control to prevent twisting. McGill’s research has shown that cable pressing produces greater levels of core activation than bench pressing. In addition this exercise allows you to work on asymmetries in pressing strength – something you can’t do with a heavy barbell.
Eric Bowman – BSc, MPT, Powerlifter
Unilateral Bent Over Dumbbell Row
The unilateral bent over dumbbell row is a basic yet excellent and often overlooked exercise that should be programmed into any well rounded training program for several reasons. First, it allows for full scapular protraction and accentuated eccentric lengthening of the rhomboids, middle traps, and lats. Second, we have a tendency to go to the gym and perform only bilateral exercises (bench press, squat, dead lift, barbell rows, pull ups, etc), yet we live in a very unilateral world in which a lot of spinal rotation is necessary. Think throwing, cranking the lawn mower, swinging, reaching, etc. The thoracic spine accounts for the majority of trunk rotation yet completing bilateral pulling exercises doesn’t allow for thoracic rotation and full range of motion to be achieved. Finally, it will allow you to equally train side to side without using a stronger dominant arm to drive movement as often happens with fixed bilateral exercises.
Dr. Jarod Hall, PT, DPT, CSCS
Half kneeling Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press
This fantastic bang for your buck unilateral exercise strengthens the muscles of the anterior core, and trains the body to resist both extension and lateral flexion. It also targets the muscles of the shoulders, and is great for strengthening the shoulder stabilizer muscles. Last, but most certainly not least, this exercise strengthens the glutes as they are needed to keep the body stable and aligned. The key to this exercise is to maintain proper alignment, and for your entire body to remain stable for the duration of the set.
The Slosh Pipe
I was first introduced to the slosh pipe or as Dan John eloquently calls it, “the sloshing pillar of pain,” during my time at Springfield College. A group of fitness fanatics and I were trying to figure out some unconventional exercises to utilize outdoors. Thus, the slosh pipe was born into our routine. If you are looking for a dynamic full-body challenge, this 10 foot and ~38lb pipe will do just that for you. You can fill the pipe with water or sand and each will bring it’s own challenges. Depending on how you utilize the slosh pipe, the beauty is that there is constant movement inside that will continuously challenge you to stabilize with your grip, shoulders, trunk, and legs. I recommend starting with static positions to learn how to “wrestle” the slosh pipe, such as the zercher position. Then I would transition to overhead holds and various carrying positions. I would finish this progression with squatting. First, I would start in the zercher position, transition to the front squat and finish with the overhead squat. You will develop a new appreciation for your serratus anterior, obliques and much more.
This can be created for ~$50. You will need the following;
- ABS or PVC can be used. Black ABS may be more durable.
- 4 inch diameter 10 ft pipe
- An end cap and a screw-in end cap (I like to utilize a screw cap so I can change amount of water or sand)
- ABS glue
- Water or sand (fill approximately ¼ of pipe)
You can also create various types of slosh pipes depending on length and width to increase or decrease the challenge.
Supine 90/90 to Low Oblique Sitting
Two of the most common muscle imbalances are what Vladamir Janda would term “Upper Crossed Syndrome” and “Lower Crossed Syndrome”. Both of these include similar components of a weak core or poor spinal stabilizing system. What better way to target both components via a supine 90/90 to low oblique sitting position! This exercise will improve ipsilateral shoulder stability, hip abduction and core strength, and also will improve hip abduction strength on the elevated leg as well! Give it a shot and let us know what you think!
The Prehab Guys, SPT, CSCS
Deficit Reverse Lunge
The reverse lunge from a step is one of my favorite exercises to address muscular imbalances in the lower extremities. Lunging from a step allows one to load the hips at end range, promoting an intense recruitment of the hip extensor musculature on the forward leg, and a dynamic stretch on of the hip flexors on the trail leg. This tends to “even out” those common side-to-side differences that many lifters struggle with everyday. In fact, I’ve seen one-sided low back pain or hip tightness practically disappear after training this lift. Give it a shot!
Here's one of my clients demonstrating excellent technique on the reverse lunge from a step. Brutal exercise that is a great accessory option to your squats and deads #lunge #reverselunge #hypertrophy ____________________________________ Barbell Rehab – Promoting strength training in physical therapy. For free articles and online consultation services follow me on IG, like my Facebook Page, and visit www.barbellrehab.com
Dr. Michael Mash, PT, DPT, CSCS, FMS
Single Leg CLX Lumbar Hip Dissociation
Perform the single leg banded spiral lumber hip dissociation (LHD) to improve both sport performance and aesthetics. LHD is a term used to describe the optimal movement pattern of maintaining a relative neutral spine while hinging at the hip. This could be observed during various compound lower extremity exercises where excessive rounding of the back while under load would be unwanted. The carry over of performing a single leg LHD is the demand to maintain good knee posture through hip and lower leg motor control and strength. This, could not be stressed more for traditional and non-traditional sport where running, pivoting, jump to land, and other high velocity plyometric demands place large stresses on the lower leg, most notably the ACL. This banded spiral variation incorporates the external forces placed on the knee but in a controllable and scalable method. To set up, use a flat training band with 2 eyelets, preferably acquire a CLX band from (@theraband ) Place one eyelet around the upper thigh and begin to wrap the spiral with a external to internal direction. 2 spirals will be used to influence thigh and lower leg internal rotation, which will force both the hip and foot (respectively) to over come the challenge. Lastly, select an eyelet of choice (one the provides a challenge and full execution of the movement). Excess band will be held for an additional but not necessary movement. Start by performing a knee bend to roughly 45 degrees. Next, transition to a single leg stance and begin a hip hinge with relative neutral spine. The non-stance leg will move into hip extension and here is where the magic so to speak happens as both legs act to provide resistance to one another. Optionally extend the arms forward to demand further control and now total body influence. Ideally, perform in a fatigued state following training. Conversely, perform as a priming movement using an eccentric isometric (@dr.joelseedman_ahp ) To improve joint range of motion and muscle recruitment/balance. A huge thanks to @anytimefitnessmj for the amazing training space and awesome trainers who set the environment!
Mario Novo, LiftersClinic.com
Usually when a client begins to swing the Mace, they have no concept of rooting themselves to create tension throughout the body to propel the Mace. Once they learn and figure it out, this concept allows them to leverage and dig in to the ground to get strong. However, prior to this process, clear imbalances and dysfunctions are displayed from left to right side. These imbalances could be due to many reasons, some being previous injury and development. The Mace swings clean up an Athletes imbalance quickly when they learn the concept of rooting, leverage and breathing.
Put the Ribs over the Pelvis and the Pillar becomes more Reactive and Reflexive. @kmguettler crushing her 360 Mace Swings while learning to Root herself and Create Tension. Couple all of this with Good Breathing Mechanics to become more Resilient and Optimize Performance. #Mace #MaceSwings #Onnit #OnnitAcademy #CreateTension #RootYourself #Breathe #RibCage #Pelvis #Equestrian #EquestrianRider #EquestrianAthlete #ClinicalAthlete @clinicalathlete @rider_fitness_website @sidelines_magazine @ashholzer @coachjohnwolf @onnitacademy @onnit @mavispence @steelmaceexercises @primalfit_griff @chweingroff @drseanstripling @thespacetrainer @coachdonstanley @mitchsadowsky @practicalhorseman @jessicaspringsteen @georginabloomberg
Dr. James Spencer, www.DrJamesSpencer.com
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