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The Skinny on Muscle Imbalances - Restoring Order As A Means Of Eliminating Back Pain
By: Steve Preston

There are many causes of back pain. Injury, illness, herniated disks and poor posture are just a few.

Muscle imbalances are one of the lesser side effects of improper use, posture, strain and injury, and are commonly the cause of the aches and pains associated with back pain. Unfortunately, most doctors don't diagnose muscle imbalances until it is too late.

Muscle Imbalances Defined

So what exactly is a muscle imbalance? A muscle imbalance is exactly as it sounds, an 'imbalance' or inequality that exists within the muscles. It occurs when two or more muscles in the body that oppose each other are disproportionate.

An example of a common muscle imbalance occurs in the muscles of the quadriceps and hamstrings. Most people work hard to strengthen the front part of their leg but often skimp when it comes to exercising the hamstring. A muscle imbalance in this area of the leg can result in a 'popping' sound in the knee. It can also result in back pain.

The single most common muscle imbalance leading to back pain is disproportionate abdomen to back ratio. Think of it this way... it's like a teeter totter that isn't balanced because one end is shorter than the other. It will still work but not optimally.

Not exercising the abdomen can lead to severe back pain because the abdomen supports the back.

Biology of Muscles

It will help your understanding a bit if you have an idea of how muscles work. Muscles are fibrous tissues that connect to bones in the body, supporting the function of movement. To facilitate movement muscles contract and then relax. So a muscle gets shorter and then longer in response to movement. A muscle imbalance may result in too much or too little contracting or relaxing. Or, some muscles may get too strong while others aren't strong enough and can reduce a persons' stability.

Factors Contributing to Muscle Imbalances

One of the primary causes of muscle imbalances is poor posture. If you sit for too long in a bad position or continually stand with bad posture, your muscles adapt to your posture but in a bad way resulting in imbalances.

Muscle imbalances can also result when you overuse a muscle. If you are right handed for example and use a pull lever on the job, and only pull with the right hand, the right hand/arm will be stronger than the left which presents an imbalance.

The Benefits of Exercise

The good news is that exercise can help reduce and even eliminate muscle imbalances. (If not careful however, improper training can also lead to muscle imbalances).

You can exercise weaker muscles to catch them up to stronger ones and work to correct imbalances and maintain overall stability. You can assess whether or not opposing muscles are out of balance by testing your lifting strength. Try lifting your maximum on one side and then the other.

For example, if you can lift a 10 pound weight during a bicep curl on the left side, but a 30 pound weight on the right, you have a muscle imbalance. You should enlist the assistance of a trainer when testing muscle imbalances. By working with a trainer, you can develop a fitness program that not only addresses muscle imbalances but improves overall tone and strength. Usually a combination of strength training and physical therapy or chiropractic therapy can be used to correct muscle imbalances.


Prevention is critical when it comes to muscle imbalances and back pain. One of the best things you can to correct and prevent future injury is seek out the help of a professional trainer. A trainer can perform a physical evaluation and test the relative muscle strength you have on each side of the body. You can then work together to develop a strength training program that provides overall strength and eliminates potential problem areas.

About The Author

Steve Preston, President of Fast Fitness has been training and counseling clients for 15 years. He offers personal fitness training, metabolic testing and customized fitness and nutrition plans. His new guide *The Better Back Guide: 6 Weeks to Improving Strength and Reducing Pain Without Surgery* teaches people how to reduce, eliminate and prevent chronic back pain using a six week program. You can read more about his guide and his other fitness guides and services at: Learn More about Back Pain at:

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The Power of Stretching    - Dave Snape


Your muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.

A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.

The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist that
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching. But,
it can't hurt, right?

So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen the
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.

Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often work
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for superior
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic

Why are stretching and flexibility considered important
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy to
know there are plenty of other benefits.

Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This mishap
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from it's
normal position.

Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
for days.

Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically

Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over

Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.

Here is some good instructional material on stretching:

Dave Snape

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