When we evaluate what parts of our bodies need to be toned, strengthened or sized down, we are often referring to our “mirror image”. What we see face to face in the mirror is only half of the story, right? How often though do we neglect training the side we don’t see most often – the back side of our bodies?
When forming a strength training program, we must focus on training all muscles including the opposing muscle groups. Failing to properly train ALL muscle groups will lead to imbalances and injury. As a muscle becomes stronger, the opposing muscle will become more lengthened and weaker if they are not trained in an equal way. For example, if you train your quadriceps (front of the leg) and fail to train your hamstrings (back of you leg), the muscles will become imbalanced. Eventually your strong quads will perform a move that the hamstring can’t handle as well, resulting in injury. Here is a list of the main opposing muscle groups:
Abs / Low back
Chest / Back (Lats)
Quadriceps / Hamstrings
Biceps / Triceps
Typically the front side of the body is already naturally stronger just from the way we use our muscles on a daily basis. On top of that, we all have a weak side, and it is important to make your weak side train in the same manner as your strong side to avoid imbalances as well. Never let your weak side pick up a weight smaller than your strong side; otherwise you are promoting the weakness.
How do you set your training up to include all muscle groups? There are different methods, but a great way is to train the opposing groups on the same day. For instance, train chest and back together, or quads and hamstrings together. This may be a good idea in the beginning as a way of seeing the level of imbalances and set a training goal from there. A lot of people are amazed at the difference in strength between the two groups. Here is a sample plan to work all the major groups and still get in 2 days a weak per body part:
Days 1 &4 – Abs/ Low back & Biceps / Triceps/ Shoulders
Day 2 & 5 – Quads/ Hamstrings
Day 3 & 6 – Chest/ Back
Day 7 – Rest
Take not that quads and hamstrings are worked in between chest, back and arms. This is because when you are working your chest your arms are also getting a workout, and they need a day of rest in between.
If this outline does not fit your schedule, you may decide to train upper body one day and lower body the next. This is fine as long as you are training those opposing muscles and giving the muscles a day of rest in between.
Next time you evaluate your mirror image, take a turn and remember to include all of your muscles when training.