Relative Flexibility & Muscle Balance
Author: Phil Gawlak, NASM-CPT, CES, GFS, FNS
Relative flexibility is the result of muscular imbalances; without exception, for every muscular contraction there is a muscular relaxation or extension. When one of the pair of muscles is stronger, shorter, weaker or longer than its counter muscle you get muscular imbalances.
There are proven methods for creating balance within the body’s muscular system, the first step is to be evaluated by a fitness professional who is skilled in recognizing motion and posture distortions, these distortions are muscular imbalances that need to be corrected. With the knowledge of what distortions you have, you now can begin targeting specific muscles with the appropriate myo-fascial release techniques (foam rolling), stretching and strengthening exercises. The process of eliminating muscle imbalances takes time, with patience and consistency the muscles return to a normal state allowing for proper range of motion. There are many activities that actually promote healthy muscle balance within the body; Tai Chi and Yoga are prime examples.
Muscle balance is defined as the “relationship between both the strength and the length of muscles and groups of muscles as they cross over joints”. This definition leads us to the conclusion that it is possible for muscles to have any or a combination of the following:
*Increased tightness leading to a reduction in joint motion and stiffness
*Decreased tightness leading to a increase in joint motion and instability
*Increased muscle strength leading to internal joint position issues
*Decreased muscle strength leading to poor joint control.
Muscle imbalances are also seen between the larger outer muscles that control major movement of a joint and the smaller internal muscles that are more responsible for deep stability and control. Joints in the body have a complex inter-relationship between these internal and external muscles that can lead to problems if these relationships become unbalanced.
It is vital that all health enthusiasts appreciate that fitness is not all about training the larger muscles and having a great set of “pecs and delts” – as effective training is about balancing your body with a variety of exercises and movements that focus equal attention to the smaller muscles tasked with maintaining stable joint posture as is placed on the larger and more obvious muscle groups.
Remember – if you are at all concerned about muscle imbalance issues see your Physiotherapist or Corrective Exercise Specialist BEFORE symptoms of pain and injury appear.