Exercises for Muscle Imbalance in Bottom Line Secrets

by admin on January 10, 2011

Bottom Line Secrets, a free e-newsletter, recently featured Dr. Phil Page in an article about simple exercises using elastic resistance for muscle imbalance syndromes. He provides simple exercises for knee pain, hip pain, as well as upper back and shoulder pain… Read the entire article below.

Source: HealthyWoman / Bottom Line: December, 2010

Body-Balancing Workout for Pain-Free Joints

When it comes to our muscles, stronger is better, right? Not necessarily. When one muscle is too strong compared to another, it creates an imbalance that leaves our joints vulnerable to inflammation, injury and pain.

According to physical therapist and certified athletic trainer Phil Page, PhD, PT, coauthor of Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance, as we age, certain muscles typically become overstretched, which weakens them… while certain other muscles tend to shorten, becoming strong but tight. Scientists aren’t sure why this happens (though poor posture is a likely factor), but they do know that it causes abnormal wear and tear on joints.

Example: In the shoulder joint, various muscles pull from different directions on the ball at the top of the humerus (upper arm bone). This keeps the ball perfectly centered in the socket, as it should be. But if the muscles at the back of the shoulder become weak (as they often do) and those in front become strong and tight, the ball is pulled slightly off center… which eventually leads to joint deterioration.

Dr. Page explained that osteoarthritis often follows patterns based on muscle imbalances — for instance, weak muscles in the fronts of the thighs (quadriceps) plus tight hamstrings at the backs of the thighs (hamstrings) contribute to knee arthritis. Muscle imbalances also are associated with tendon problems, such as the painful inflammatory knee condition patellar tendinitis.

Fortunately, we can reduce the risk for such problems with a workout specifically designed to restore balance to joints by strengthening weak muscles (or those likely to become weak) and stretching tight ones.

WORKOUT FOR BALANCED MUSCLES

Since most people are prone to muscle imbalances, the following exercises are appropriate for just about anyone, Dr. Page said. (Of course, check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program to make sure it is safe for you.) Recommended: Do the moves below every other day as an addition to your usual fitness routine. The only equipment needed is a five-foot-long elastic resistance band (available at sporting-goods stores or from online vendors such as Fitness Wholesale, www.FWonline.com/tbcut.htm, about $3 to $6). Start with the stretchiest band for light resistance… work up to greater resistance by using a stronger band and/or adjusting your hand position. To download a PDF with photos that illustrate the exercises below, visit www.StrengthBandTraining.com/2010/12/exercises-for-muscle-balance and click on the image beneath “Exercises for Muscle Balance.”

To prevent or reduce knee problems…

Strengthen quadriceps. Start: Sit in a sturdy chair, feet together. Loop center of band around right ankle. Grasp ends of band in left hand… anchor exposed portion of band firmly beneath left foot. Move: Slowly extend right leg until knee is straight… hold for two seconds… slowly return to starting position. Do 12 to 15 repetitions (“reps”), then switch sides.

Stretch hamstrings. Start: Lie on your back, right leg straight on floor. Bend left knee in toward chest and loop center of band around sole of left foot. With hands, grasp ends of band. Straighten left leg as much as you comfortably can, sole of left foot facing ceiling. Move: Keeping left leg straight, gently pull on ends of band to bring leg closer to you, until you feel a good stretch at the back of the leg… hold 15 to 30 seconds… return to starting position. Do three to five reps, then switch sides.

To prevent or reduce hip problems…

Strengthen gluteus medius (outer hip). Start: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Loop center of band around right ankle… grasp ends of band in left hand… anchor exposed portion of band firmly beneath left foot. Shift weight to left foot. Move: Keeping knees straight and torso erect, raise right leg out to the side about 12 inches… hold for two seconds… slowly return to starting position. Do 12 to 15 reps, then switch sides.

Stretch piriformis (buttocks). You do not need a band for this exercise. Start: Sit in a sturdy chair. Bend left leg and place left ankle over right knee in a figure-four position. Move: Without rounding your back, gently lean forward as far as you comfortably can… hold 15 to 30 seconds… return to starting position. Do three to five reps, then switch sides.

To prevent or reduce shoulder and upper-back problems…

Strengthen posterior rotator cuff (back of shoulder). Start: Tie one end of band around a fixed object (such as the doorknob of a closed door) at waist height… stand so that the object to which the band is tied is on your right side. Wrap free end of band around left hand… bend left elbow to 90° so left hand is nearly touching belly button. Move: Keeping left elbow tucked into your side and forearm parallel to floor, rotate the forearm outward (by rotating at left shoulder joint) so left hand moves slowly to the left (as if on a hinge) as far as you comfortably can… hold for two seconds… return to starting position. Do 12 to 15 reps, then switch sides.

Strengthen rhomboids and middle trapezius (upper back). Start: Sit in a sturdy chair, feet together, legs stretched out in front of you, knees slightly bent… wrap center of band around soles of feet. Grasping ends of band, hold arms out in front of you, angled downward and fairly straight, so hands are at hip height. Move: Bending arms, pull hands in and up toward the sides of your waist, elbows pointing behind you. (Don’t move legs.) Keeping shoulders down, squeeze shoulder blades toward each other… hold for two seconds… slowly return to starting position. Do 12 to 15 reps.

Stretch pectorals (chest). You do not need a band for this exercise. Start: Sit all the way back in a sturdy low-backed chair. Reaching arms behind you (and behind chair back), clasp hands at hip height, interlocking fingers so palms face each other and arms are fairly straight. Move: Keeping head up and neck relaxed, slowly raise arms as high as you comfortably can… hold 15 to 30 seconds… return to starting position. Do two to four reps.

Source: Phil Page, PhD, PT, is a physical therapist, certified athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is director of the Thera-Band Academy, a fitness education firm, and an instructor of kinesiology at Louisiana State University, both in Baton Rouge. He is the coauthor of three books, including Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance and Strength Band Training (both from Human Kinetics). www.Thera-BandAcademy.com

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