How To Identify Muscle Imbalances

  • By Jonathan Jensen
  • Published December 1, 2011
  • Updated November 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

Your body will naturally compensate for muscle imbalances. That does not, however, mean that they will not do you any lasting damage. But how can you identify whether you have a muscle imbalance?

1. Glutes
Lie flat on your back with one knee bent, bringing your foot in as close to your buttocks as you can while keeping it flat on the floor. The other leg should be extended straight out and stay in alignment with your torso throughout the entire movement. Before you start the movement be sure to draw your core in tight to isolate gluteal movement at the hip and not allow any movement in the lower lumber region of the spine. The goal is to lift the pelvis off the floor as high as you can, using just the gluteal muscle. Slowly raise as high as you can and then lower back to approximately one inch off the floor, then repeat up to 30 times.

2. Hamstring Balance
Lie on your back with your arms out at your sides for stability. Put both feet on the physio ball. Squeeze your glutes and lift your back off the floor, the goal being to align your torso and legs in a straight line. Next, pick one leg off the ball, keeping it in line with the torso throughout the entire movement. The test is to bend your knee—the leg that is on the ball—and pull your foot in as far as you can, keeping your body off the floor. Then very slowly extend the leg back out, stopping just before you reach full extension. Repeat as many times as you can up to 30 and then complete with the other leg.

3. Quadriceps
Put both feet up against a wall with your toes on the ground and get into the push-up position. Next, walk your hands in towards your feet, bringing yourself up into the “pike” position. Bend one leg and pick your foot up off the floor. This leg will stay in this position throughout the entire movement. On the other leg, bend at the knee and lower to approximately two inches off the floor, then squeeze the quads and straighten the leg. All the movement should come from the knee only. Repeat as many as you can up to 30 and then switch legs.

4. Gluteus Medius & Piriformis
Lie on your side, up on your elbow with your hip and knee in flexion—it’s very important to keep the leg flexed at the hip. The upper leg should be lifted up so it is not touching the lower leg. The movement is to lift your hip off the ground as high as you can. Once this is achieved, lower back down to approximately one inch off the ground and repeat as many times as you can up to 30 and then switch sides.

5. Knee Alignment
Stand in front of a stable box or chair that is just below knee height. Stand on one leg, while lifting the other leg to waist height. Shift your weight back onto your heel and, as slowly as you can, sit down and then stand up using the one leg. The lifted foot should not touch the ground even when seated.

Note: This test is best done in front of a mirror or with a partner. You are looking to see if you are able to maintain hip, knee and foot alignment throughout the entire movement, and if you can control the sit all the way down and all the way up. If your knee caves in toward the center during the exercise, then you need to work on strengthening your glute medius and piriformis (see previous exercise), and your vastus medialis (teardrop quad muscle). You should not perform this exercise until you can maintain the proper position throughout the movement.

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