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Saturday, August 30, 2014
Muscle Imbalance: Shortened vs Tense
You may have heard someone say that their muscles are tight, or that they have poor posture and in some cases you may have heard the term atrophy. Visually all these conditions look about the same. One muscle might look shorter than the other, one muscle may look bulkier than the other and in the case of posture; the person doesn't appear upright either down below the waist or above the waist. In worst case scenarios it is even evident in the midsection. Muscle tightness, poor posture and atrophy can be attributed to many reasons but each has a root cause which leads to its manifestation. I will give you an example in which they all appear to be the same but the root cause is different. Muscle tightness could be associated to daily behaviors, lack of stretching or over straining and in some cases all of the above. Poor posture could also be attributed to the previous mentioned situations with the possibility of paralysis or injury or paralysis due to injury. Atrophy just like poor posture could be the result of little to no use of certain muscles as well as previously mentioned an injury. Posture and atrophy can be do to the over use and under use of the antagonist muscle. A perfect example of this is working out on your biceps leading to bigger anterior arms. Then neglecting the antagonist muscle in this case the triceps with little to no exercise in comparison. The scenario I just described often results in a posture which resembles a person walking like a guerrilla. The individual appears to be trying to show off by walking with his arms bent as if trying to demonstrate that they have enormous arms. The reality here is that they probably don't stretch the biceps and they are overpowering the triceps by putting to much emphasis on biceps training thus leading to a constant flexed posture of the arms. These same folks often walk with their palms facing behind them rather than to their side pockets. Don't let this happen to you!
Unless there are physiological reasons for poor posture such as paralysis or muscle injury which led to a permanent unbalanced appearance there are many things you can do to prevent the problem from getting worse. Here are a few solutions I can suggest to help resolve issues related to poor posture and muscle tightness. Stretch the muscles which have been shortened as a result of adopted lifestyle behaviors such as long hours of sitting behind a desk, extensive hours of driving and ergonomically incorrect positions of your car seat or desk arrangements. Educate yourself or hire a fitness professional to learn how to balance out your exercise routine so that you aren't placing to much emphasis on certain muscle groups while neglecting others. Get back to the basics and learn proper movement based on the situations you are faced with on a regular basis to prevent injury. Create and find opportunities to get your body to go through the various ranges of motions possible by all the joints in your body. Adopt a daily regimen of exercises which counter the effects of your daily behaviors (ex. Cobra Stretch to extend your arms, strengthen your glutes and stretch the frontal midsection as well as hips.)
The benefits of adopting good patterns is equivalent to the benefit of a good diet, getting enough rest and getting your daily exercise. You reduce the possibility unnecessary discomfort and a positive self-image. You will appear more confident and you will feel healthier. Like Nike says, 'Just Do It'!
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