Muscle Imbalances and How-To Fix

Muscle Imbalances and How-To Fix

Muscle Imbalances & How to Fix

Muscle imbalances are something that I see a lot of in my business. One shoulder sitting higher than the other, one arm stronger than the other, one leg more dominant than its counterpart.

It’s a common occurrence with the human body, and one that does more harm than good.

Gray Cook, a physical therapist and leader in the field of functional movement (www.graycook.com), claims, “left-to-right asymmetries seem to be the most common problem associated with the risk of injury.”

This holds true for the athlete as well as for us mere mortals working out in the gym.

In addition to contributing to injury, muscle imbalances can also cause day-to-day pain.

For instance, weakness in certain muscles of the abdomen can create back pain because the muscles of the stomach need to be strong to help to support the back. The same holds true with the knee.

If the muscles of the front of the thigh (the quadriceps) are more built up than the muscles at the back of the leg (the hamstrings), then you may be making an appointment with your physiotherapist in the near future.

One tip to remember when training at the gym:

  • When you workout one muscle group, be sure to train the opposite muscle group immediately after.
  • For example, a chest exercise in my gym equates to two back exercises (because most people tend to have poor postures related to daily living), a bicep curl is always followed with a tricep extension, an abdomen crunch with a low back extension, and a quadricep driven exercise is always followed with at least two (and sometimes three) hamstring and glute exercises.

Why so many glute and hamstring exercises, you wonder?

The front muscles of the leg, in most people, usually tend to be stronger – while the poor muscles of the posterior are neglected and left out. This leads to everything from back pain, knee pain, and hip pain, to poor core instability and inefficient knee tracking.

All nasty little things that will put an end to your workout.

Another trick I recommend to offset any imbalances is to train each side of your body individually:

  • Perform your chest press one arm at a time.
  • Use a D-handle for your lat pulldown and work each side independently.
  • Instead of a squat, do a one-legged squat.
  • A hamstring curl becomes a one-legged curl.

One Dumbbell Workout

Give this workout a go to work out any muscle imbalances you might have. All you need is one dumbbell and 30-minutes.

 

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Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

So, you’re in your 40’s or 50’s. Congrats, God willing you have reached the midway point of your life.

But, now that you are here does that mean that you need to start training your age, start training with precautions and restrictions because you might break?

First a Funny Story

My loving husband, who is 10 years older than me, gives me a heads up with every passing decade as to what to expect both physically and mentally for the years ahead.

For example, when he turned 30 he enlightened me that my body was going to start to change shape (in case you are doing the math in your head I meet the love of my life when I was 19 years old. 25 years later he’s still with me.).

Sure enough at 30 years my hips grew wider (a lot wider) and things shifted. I was happy though. Prior to that I was kinda built like a boy. Now I had me some curves.

At 40 he then warned me that simple tasks, like getting up and off the floor, was going to start getting harder. As well, things that I completely take for granted now, like reading the small print on food labels, or menus in a dark restaurant, would go the way of the dodo.

On top of that he coached me that I will also experience a big decline in my energy levels and I won’t be able to, nor want to be able to, be in a constant state of motion like I was in my 20’s and 30’s.

Sitting at 44 years now, with 45 staring me in the face, he has been, and is right on target.

About-PJ-Fitness-with-PJ

I’m Old So Therefore I’m Frail

Many people, including loving husband, think that as we age we tend to slow down and do less because of aging. For the most part this is complete and utter BS (sorry loving husband).

Much of the physical frailty attributed to aging is actually the result of inactivity, disease or poor nutrition.

The good news, many of these problems can be helped (or even reversed) by improving lifestyle behaviors, such as exercising on a regular basis and eating a whole food diet.

The Effects of Aging

Aging muscles:

  • Shrink and lose mass with age. This is called sacropenia and it is a natural process, but a sedentary lifestyle will also speed this nasty process up.
  • The number of our muscle fibers decrease as we age, which means that it takes longer to respond in our 40’s and 50’s than it did in our 20’s.
  • The water content of the tendons decrease which makes our tissues stiffer and less able to handle stress.
  • The heart muscle becomes less able to propel large quantities of blood quickly which means that we tire more easily and take longer to recover.
  • Our metabolism slows down (this is how quickly our body converts energy) which means we don’t burn fat like we used to.

Aging bones & joints:

  • The mineral content in our bones decrease (for both men and women) making our bones more fragile.
  • The connective tissue that attaches bones to bones (called ligaments) become less elastic which in turn decreases our flexibility.
  • Cartilage, which provides the cushioning between our bones and in our joints, changes. With these changes comes less water content and a joint more susceptible to wear and tear (ie. arthritis)
  • Our joint motion becomes more restricted due to these changes in our tendons and ligaments making us all around less flexible.

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

 

1. Build a fitness base.

If you are just starting a fitness program you need to build a base first. This is extremely important, especially in our later years as it is much easier to get injured and it takes longer to get better when we do injure ourselves.

Why is it easier? You can thank the decreased water in our tendons and ligaments, as well as our restricted range of motion in our joints and our loss of muscles mass and muscle fiber size.

 

My recommendation: perform a strength training workout 3 times a week, 1 set an exercise, and then the next week do 2 sets, the week after add about 10% more weight to what you are lifting and then on the fourth week add another set.

2. Lift heavy.

Once that base is built, or if you are already fit, start lifting heavier but for fewer reps. If your joints and cartilage have already encountered years of wear and tear (which we know that they have by mid-life), and they don’t have the water content that they used to, a weight training program with lots of reps will only inflame the joint further.

Instead, lift a weight that you can maintain good form with, but are starting to crack by the end of your rep range of 12-15.

3. Watch out for long distance, repetitive workouts.

Cross training is your goal in your later years. If you like running, great run but keep the mileage down and perform other activities as well. But, if you run and run and run (or bike and bike and bike, or swim and swim and swim) be prepared to hurt.

Unless you are one of the blessed individuals who can perform repetitive long distance workouts without injury you are going to inflame those joints of yours and send yourself to physio.

In fact, even my younger clients that only ran for their workouts prior to seeing me have a longer history of injuries than those who run as well as lift weights.

And if you are running for weight loss, just stop right now. Cause it ain’t gonna work as well as other forms of exercise will.

4. You ain’t dead yet.

I, personally, know that I could kick my 20-year old’s ass. I am stronger, faster and more focused at 44 than I was at 24.

So, once you have built that fitness base, layered on it for a year I want you to GO FOR IT – cause you ain’t dead yet.

With the advances in nutrition and fitness that we have seen in the last 5 years we can get better and live longer and play just as hard as we did in our 20’s and 30’s.

Keep training everyone.

 

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Fast-Twitch Muscle or Slow-Twitch Muscle: Which One Are You?

Fast-Twitch Muscle or Slow-Twitch Muscle: Which One Are You?

Fast Twitch or Slow Muscle Fibre – Do You Know Which You Are?

Not all of our muscles are created equal. Case in point, how I feel when I lift weights for my upper body versus when I weight train for my lower body.

With my upper body muscles, it feels like I could go forever. It takes a long time for my muscles to fatigue.

Yet, when I train my legs, after just a few reps they start to fatigue. “Why is that?”, you wonder. Well, it seems my upper body is built for endurance and my lower body is built for speed, or more scientifically, I carry more slow-twitch muscle fibres in my arms and more fast-twitch muscle fibres in my quads and hamstrings.

Muscle Fibres Explained

Our skeletal muscles, those wonderful muscles that connect the bones together and that we train in the gym, comprise about 40% of our body weight. Within each muscle are microscopic proteins bundled together to form a fibre. These fibres are then bundled together to form what is called a fascicle (rhymes with popsicle), and the fascicles are bundled together to form a whole muscle.

Within these bundled fascicles lie three different types of muscle fibres (as well as gradations between them all), which dictate how much weight, or force, it can produce and how long it can generate this force. We all have these fibres, whether we exercise or not, and they vary from muscle to muscle.

The first type of fibre is called slow-twitch fibres, or Type I fibre.

These are our Energizer Bunny muscle fibres. They are recruited for endurance work because they can go on and on and on. However, while they can carry us the distance, they sure can’t press a lot of weight. Marathon racers would have a high percentage of these fibres in their legs, while body builders wouldn’t.

The second fibre type are our fast-twitch, or type IIa fibres.

These are recruited for activities that require speed, strength and power. They contract quickly, but fatigue quickly which is why I nick-named these fibres our Arnie-fibres. Sprinters would have a lot of these muscle fibres in their legs, whereas long-distance bicyclists wouldn’t.

The third type of fibre is the fast-twitch B (type IIb) fibres.

These are our super-charged fast-twitch muscle fibres, and are only recruited for short, intense activities such as jumping, sprinting at full speed and lifting very heavy weights.

Actions of Each Muscle Fibre

All of our actions are dictated by these fibres. That is why some people can lift heavy weights, but can only run for 5 minutes on the treadmill.

Of course, all muscles can be trained for any activity, so don’t use this as an excuse not to get your cardio in, but our muscle fibres do dictate what action will be easier for the body to perform.

In an anatomy class that I took years ago, I remember the instructor telling us that in some Eastern block countries they actually used to take biopsies of children’s legs to see what percentage of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibres they had.

This test then decided what sport the child will be sent into. Because let’s face it, if someone has a lot of slow-twitch fibres (our Energizer muscle fibres) in their quadriceps, they won’t be bringing home the Gold medal in the sport of power lifting.

To determine which muscle fibre type you have ask yourself the following questions (Idea, May 2010):

Are you able to do lots of repetitions when lifting weights, or do you fatigue after a few?
If you fatigue, you probably have a more fast-twitch fibres – like I found out in my legs. If this is the case wind sprints, HIIT workouts and low rep/high weight workouts are best suited for your body type.

Are you better at sprint and power activities or at endurance activities?
If you love to sprint, then you are like me again and have more fast-twitch muscle fibres. If you are a marathoner, then you carry more slow-twitch fibres, but if you enjoy 5km & 10 km then you possess a bit more fast-twitch. I use this excuse whenever someone tried to get me to run a marathon. “Sorry, I’d would love to, but I’m fast-twitch in the quads.”

Which type of workouts feel easier and more natural: a) long, aerobic workouts and light weights with lots of reps or (b) sprints and heavy weights with few reps?
If you answered (a), you have more slow-twitch fibres. If you answered (b), you have more fast-twitch fibres.

 

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