Instabilities & Muscle Imbalance

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about constructing a building? Like most, you probably consider the foundation because it is the thing that precedes everything else.


A good foundation leads to a sturdy building that lasts for many years. In contrast, a weak foundation can shift the building to one side or even cause it to collapse. 


Physical strength is similar in many ways. Too many people try to build it on a weak foundation that prevents them from realizing their potential.


The Two Primary Things That Determine The Strength Of Our Foundation


Stability and balanced muscular development are two of the most important things that go into building a solid foundation (1). 


Stability refers to our ability to remain firm and steady while doing different activities. It allows us to produce force effectively and transfer it to the ground and external weights. For example, imagine that you have a heavy barbell on your back, but your feet are on sand. How well do you think you can squat? Now, imagine that you move away from the sand and on a solid surface. This is how profoundly our stability can impact us.


Balanced muscular development is also vital for developing strength because it allows us to produce force effectively and load both sides of the body evenly. In contrast, an imbalance often leads to overcompensating with strong muscles, which worsens movement patterns, puts us at a greater risk of an injury, and further exacerbates the imbalances (2).


How to Assess And Fix Imbalances And Instabilities


Fixing imbalances and instabilities often starts with taking an objective look at yourself and your training. Working with a good coach is one option because a trained eye can spot even minor errors that suggest potential problems.


Filming some of your training sets, especially when lifting sub-maximal loads, is also an option. We often think we are doing well, but seeing yourself from the side can reveal glaring issues in your technique. 


Once you spot an issue, the first step to resolving it is to reduce your training loads for a while and work on proper technique. Rebuilding your form is nothing to be ashamed of, and it can save you from an injury down the road. For example, if you notice that you lean forward on heavy squats, drop the load by 50 percent and work on sitting back and loading your heels.


Introduce more unilateral work if you suspect that muscle imbalances plague your training  (3). For example, you might notice that your left side lags on the barbell bench press. As a result, the barbell goes up in an uneven position. An excellent way to work on this issue is to swap barbell training for dumbbells for a while. Doing so will force both sides of your body to work and develop evenly.


Another significant issue that might pop up is poor balance. The problem is trickier to diagnose because several things might be the cause. For example, poor mobility might be stopping you from getting into a stable position. Alternatively, you might simply have a poor technique that’s making the movement unnecessarily difficult. Weak core muscles could also be the cause. 


In such a case, working on your technique, mobility, and core strength could deliver the quickest and best results.