Building your way to muscular balance

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image Contributing blogger Troy Meyers is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioner with more than 10 years of experience. He owns Atlanta-based and contributes to the site’s Lockerroom Blog.

If an imbalance exists between agonist-antagonist muscle groups, joint instability, muscular dysfunction, muscle weakness and increased risk of musculoskeletal pain and injury may result. For more information, visit

imageThe goal of all fitness programs should be to balance both your health and fitness needs — strength, speed, power, anaerobic and aerobic endurance, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility and body composition — but to make sure the body is developed in complete balance. Muscle balance ratios differ between muscle groups and are affected by the force-velocity of different muscle groups at specific joints.

For muscular balance, work chest and back, abs and lower back, hamstrings and quadriceps, biceps and triceps. Make sure for every push you do of one muscle group, you are also doing a pull of the opposite muscle group.

imageFor example, if the hamstring group does not have at least 75 percent of the strength of the quadriceps’ strength, the resulting imbalance could cause tearing of the hamstrings. Female athletes experience at least 10 times the amount of hamstring pulls due to this imbalance.

Muscle imbalance between other muscle groups is equally important. The imbalance between the strength of contralateral muscle groups (left vs. right sides) should not be allowed to become greater than about 10 to 15 percent. You can easily see from asymmetrical sports such as tennis, the results of contralateral development causing injury. Strength training can be used to correct this type of imbalance.

imageMuscle imbalance between upper and lower body muscle groups can also become problematic. The strength-to-body mass (BM) ratio of the upper body should be at least 40 to 60 percent of the lower body relative strength. One standard is to compare the bench press to the leg press, with the bench becoming about 40 to 60 percent of the leg press.

If you discover muscular dysfunction caused by muscular imbalance, then your exercise prescription will require 2 or 3 sets/exercises on the weak side/group for every one performed on the strong side until balance is obtained.


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