Strength & Fitness

Strength Balance (part 2)

Strength Balance

Why should we care and how does this pertain to me?

Beyond how well your joint moves, how well your joints transmit and absorb force through them is an important factor in joint health. Not simply in the fact of “can I move this weight” but also in the sense of load sharing and are my muscles contracting appropriately. In other terms: are the muscles surrounding the joints creating even contraction and are the loads you are putting through your joints being evenly distributed and working together?

Example: Multiple people pulling a boat through a canal by pulling it with ropes. IF everyone is contributing evenly the boat glides through the canal without hitting the side, it is a smooth/accurate route. BUT if one person isn’t doing their job or someone is over-doing their job, the boat starts rubbing on the side of the canal, creating wear and tear on the boat. This is what happens to your joint when some movement patterns are well developed/strong and others aren’t. Your joints experience altered joint mechanics, leading to increased wear and tear on some areas of the joint structures and no wear and tear on others (which weakens those areas over time). The result is some tissues of the joint experiencing overuse and other tissues experiencing atrophy. This will create imbalances in the body and in time can lead to injury, poor movement patterns, aches, and pains.

This is why we stress the importance of NOT “cherry-picking”. The movements and workouts we program are intentional and are meant to keep your body balanced and safe. Each week we try to hinge, squat, press, pull, lunge or step up and do some form of core work (both abs AND posterior chain). If you don’t like hinging movements or skip anything with a lot of squats… you could be potentially hurting yourself. Only picking workouts that you “like” or are good at could lead you towards over-development and underdevelopment movement patterns and muscle groups. If we don’t keep our movement patterns and muscle groups relatively balanced our joints and tendons end up taking more or less wear, leading to degeneration (overuse) or weakening (atrophy) of tissues. Our goal is to improve tissue/muscle strength or at the very least maintain it.

We, also, have occupational and day-to-day repetitive movements that can overdevelop and hinder our body's balance. Things like carrying your children/gym bag/purse/a serving tray on the same side of your body every day. Or it could be someone who is constantly bending over and picking things up (labor work) but not squatting to balance it out. Another common one we see is people ONLY doing ab exercises but never working their posterior chair or the muscles of your lower back, creating an imbalance of the core.

We can think of this on the micro AND macro level:

Shoulder girdle: are you more capable of pulling or pushing? Pulling up or pressing up? Is your strength or stamina more developed? How about the left vs. the right side.

Pelvic girdle: How is your deadlift vs. your squat (front and back)? Left vs. right (lunges, step-ups, strict press, high pull)? Carrying ability (grip strength)? Stamina vs. strength (reps vs. load)?

Olympic lifts and thrusters: Everything above + hips compared to shoulders. Stronger hips with weak shoulders, weak hips vs. strong shoulders.

Strength imbalances from side to side can create back, shoulder, hip, and knee pain. If not addressed, these pains can become chronic and life-altering.

Every functional movement is only as strong as its weakest link. By comparing the different strengths of functional movements, we can expose the weak links. This will help further prevent major imbalances between muscle groups or movement patterns. It can also help us understand the cause of painful joint movements: Does it need more or less strength? More or less volume? In order to become healthy.

Functional movements are safe and should be painless when done appropriately. Squatting= getting on and off the toilet. Deadlifting= picking up groceries or grandkids from the ground. Pressing= Putting things on a high shelf. Pulling= Getting yourself up onto a pool deck, climbing a tree/ladder. Step ups= hiking, climbing stairs, getting into a tall vehicle. All things we do daily!


High intensity vs low intensity biasing. If you don’t have the muscular stamina to complete certain intensity weights at moderate to high reps, as you move through the workout, fatigue will set in and motor control will become compromised. This usually leads to poor movement patterns, incorrect muscle recruitment, and down the road...injury and pain. When our body/muscles are tired and telling us to stop, but we keep pushing, we tend to use the wrong muscles to complete the movement and over time our body can learn to move that way all the time. These are the reasons that we prescribe weights and why a coach will tell you to take off weight or to scale in certain workouts.

If you want to be healthy, move well and kick butt way into your 90’s, leave your ego at the door! Listen to your coach, listen to your body, refrain from cherry-picking workouts and show up CONSISTENTLY. Our goal is ALWAYS to keep you safe and healthy while having fun and progressing towards your goals. We are never against you doing certain movements. We just want you to perform them safely, with proper movement patterns and correct form. This may mean working on your mobility before you get to try the “sexy” technical/heavy stuff.