Muscle Balance

What would happen if you only had muscles on one side of your spine? Would those muscles get so tight that they pulled your bones to one side? Or would the other side be so weak and unstable that your joints are chronically inflamed and sore?

At IntoYou, we visualise the trunk of your body as a cube – an intertwined, interconnected set of muscles that are codependent on each other’s strength and tension. It does not make sense for trainers generally to leave one side of this cube unattended. Nor does it make sense that we train the sides of the cube independently.

Humour me for a second, and stand up from your chair. Hold your right arm straight out in front of you, then swing it out and around behind your back. Stop in that position. Notice what has happened to your feet, hips, shoulders… Have they also changed position? The muscle in your core is the epicentre of this connection between your hand and your feet. In simple terms, if you want to train your core, you have to train your feet with your hands.

Secondly, you have to address all 6 sides of the cube with equal priority. If you prescribe an exercise that involves a twist, you also need to move sideways, bend and flex, breathe, and draw awareness to the pelvic floor.

This is where the skill of you trainer is imperative, and why knocking about a gym floor on your own can do more harm than good. The body is so complicated that machine weights fail to train it effectively (for functional movement – not necessarily for aesthetics). Furthermore, if you do not know your transverse from your multifidius, you may be neglecting one or more aspects of your core muscles.

So we go back to the question asked at the beginning of this post: “what would happen if you only had muscles on one side of your spine?” , this situation in one’s core can cause pain, rather than relieve it. It can pull your posture one way (imagine some “mirror muscle” men – with their rounded shoulders), which may not automatically cause discomfort or pain, but it doesn’t look great, or work well – many of the mirror muscle men cannot straighten their arms (not to pick on them, computers do similar things to one’s posture!).

My mum had the lymph nodes taken out of her arm after discovering breast cancer, talk to her about how debilitating half-range movement in one arm can be!

Muscle must be trained in balance. Not the simplistic agonist/antagonist equation we have put to movement until recently, but in planes of action – left right, forward back, up and down – of every muscle, in every joint, in as many exercises as possible!

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