Athletes, and Training for Full-Body Functionality with muscular BALANCE.

Many of us find that thing we love to do, and we train it HARD.

Cycling, Rowing, Weightlifting, Endurance Running, Sprinting, Motocross… you name it! Once we find our active comfort zone, we are creatures of habit, and we tend to quickly become familiar with any new stimulus in order to automate it as much as possible.

This is a biological adaptation to reduce stress on ourselves as an organism because if a stressor is repeated, we should be able to get better at dealing with it or ADAPTING to it. This is known as the human stress adaptation response.

With sport, we actively introduce ourselves to a specific and repeated stressor (our training) in order to create the desired adaptation and get better at it. Simple, right? Not really, I know… but that’s the essence of it.

So then, the part that bears further consideration is how to bring BALANCE to the above described equation? Balance is essential to health and vitality, and that is no less true when we are talking about the muscular systems of the body. If you are training hard for a specific task (e.g. cycling) there can be things that get overlooked as we focus on our sport, and these overlooked training points can lead to musculoskeletal imbalances and injuries in time.

With cycling as our example (above), hamstring and gluteal activation may become overpowered by quadriceps activation due to the nature of riding a bicycle and our tendency to adapt to something in the easiest way versus the optimal way, many times.

This article from the Indoor Cycling Association is a quick explanation of how and why cyclists tend to be predisposed to becoming quad dominant. The second paragraph reads as follows:

“For most cyclists, and especially people taking indoor cycling classes, the quadriceps will be the dominant muscle group for powering the bike. Why? Using the quads does not require any focused training or mental effort. Using additional muscles such as the gluteals (mainly the gluteus maximus), hip flexors, and hamstrings requires proper form and position to allow the muscles to activate, awareness to know the muscles are activating, and conditioning to keep them from fatiguing quickly. I’m not stating this to discourage you or your riders from trying, but rather to set the proper expectation and experience. It takes a disciplined focused effort, multiple times per week, over many months of training to develop the effective use of all the muscle groups mentioned.”

Quad dominance can occur if one becomes over-trained at the quadriceps and under-trained at the glutes and hamstrings, and this can lead to an anterior pelvic tilt, and a cascade of back and knee pain among a whole host of additional ailments than can come from imbalanced strengthening of our body.

What’s more, muscular imbalances can happen at any joint because there is always two lines of opposing tension from antagonistic muscle groups (e.g. quad/hamstring, biceps/triceps). If you strengthen one side of any antagonistic pair more than the other, you’re setting yourself up less than optimally, and placing greater risk of injury on yourself with every additionally imbalanced training session.

So then, what is the solution?

It isn’t some mystical formula. It’s just some basic logic, applied.

If you are training something a lot, you need to make sure that you are training the supporting musculature as well to create functional strength and capability of the body. Especially over time.

Some very quick examples include:

Cyclists want to ensure they develop their glutes and hamstrings to keep up with the likely overactivation of their quads and help maintain proper length tension relationships and allow pain-free posture.

Runners want to address those same points above, and add some additional strength and flexibility training to the calves and tibialis anterior (shin muscle that lifts the toe) by lifting that toe under some type of resistance, and using the calf muscle under a greater resistance than it experiences with the repetitive running stress.

Motocross riders need to train their upper body with purposeful resistance to develop balanced strength and endurance of the muscle fibers needed to handle that heavy machine. They also need to develop the strength to clamp their legs on the bike (adduction) and the balanced muscle action of the reverse of that motion (abduction).

All of the athletes above need to develop a strong core that has endurance. Core strength is at the foundation of our ability to translate our muscular system’s power into specific action and this represents another type of imbalance if the core is weak and anything else is strong.

The list of examples we could have examined above is endless, but what we recommend is succinct. Get high quality tools that cover as many of your needs at once as is possible:

  • TRX – is a suspension trainer that was developed by a Navy Seal. Versatile, compact, and travel friendly, this extremely useful and portable implement allows you to strengthen and tone your entire body if you want. It is particularly useful for core engagement and training, because you are always resisting gravity as you position yourself for any given movement. Lots to love about this tool.
  • PowerBlock – Adjustable Dumbbells. These are industry-leading tools for versatility and functional design in externally loaded strength training. With versatile grip possibilities and a cubed shape, this one pair of dumbbells replace an entire set, and fits neatly and stylishly into a very small space. Rapid changes of resistance can be applied, quickly and conveniently, and the resistance goes high enough to make this the only set of resistance gear you’ll likely ever need.

While there are many more fitness products on the market than what we’ve listed, these allow the largest range of effective training possibilities, highest quality, and greatest value for the money. You can effectively train all the muscle groupings of your entire body to develop endurance, tone, strength, size, and power.

From maintaining fitness on the go and correcting present and potential imbalances, to straight up driving gains in strength and power that allow you to break through to new levels of your sport, has you covered.

Leave your comment