Have you ever really thought about the real reason your low back always hurts or you keep dealing with the same overuse injury over and over? If you are a mom, you are probably feeling a lot of tension and maybe even some pain in your back and neck by the end of the day after lifting the kids and all of their gear so many times. The real reason behind these aches and pains is probably a muscle imbalance.
Our bodies are meant to work together as one functioning unit, yet many of our daily activities require use of our muscles in an unbalanced way. For example, when we lift kids, car seats or anything really we are using our pectoral (chest) muscles primarily. Our back muscles which are the opposing muscles do not get used as much. The hip flexors (iliopsoas) get far more work from walking and climbing stairs than the glutes which are their counterparts. Biceps are more used than triceps, and in general the muscles in the front of our bodies get more use than the back muscles also leading to imbalances.
Here is a quick look at the main opposing muscle groups:
2. Deltoids(shoulders)/Lats (back)
3. Abdominals/ erector spinae
4. Quads (front of leg) / hamstrings(back of leg)
5. Hip adductors (move legs toward midline (center of body)/ Hip abductors (move legs away from midline
65% of injuries are due to overuse associated with a muscle imbalance, and this is not just in athletes. Some of the more common imbalance injuries include runner’s knee, achilles tendinitis and low back pain. Symptoms of an imbalance usually include muscle tightness and shortened range of motion (ROM). The opposing muscle of the one that feels tight is usually stretched out and unable to fully contract.
So how do you tell if you suffer from a muscle imbalance? Sometimes you can just look in the mirror. For instance, someone who focuses on the quads when they are training and forgets the hamstrings can over time cause lordosis which is an inward curve of the spine. It is also common in pregnancy and appears as a swayback of the spine. This can also happen for the non-exerciser since hamstrings are naturally less used than quads.
The same is true for the chest and back muscle groups. Due to all of the hunching over a computer or lifting things all day the chest is tight, and the back is usually stretched out from underuse. This usually causes kyphosis which is a humping appearance of the upper back.
If you can identify with these scenarios and symptoms there are ways help your muscles work together. Teaching your muscles to work together as one functioning unit is the key. Functional fitness is “in” these days, and hopefully it will stick around b/c that is the key to a balanced, strong and pain free body. Full body or multi-muscle exercises are best. Some examples are push-ups, lunges, deep squats, pull-ups, planks, medicine ball twists and plyometric (jumping) moves. Coupling upper and lower body moves together not only torches the calories, but teaches muscles to work together, be functional and balanced.
Keep these moves in mind and remember to train all muscle groups for a balanced and pain-free body!