By Chris Roaccisano.
This sentence can sometimes be hard to hear especially when everything is going well and you are seemingly getting stronger…but the truth of the matter is that if you continually keep growing when you have not addressed the weaker muscles in your movement pattern, you will end up with more regressions, plateaus and frustration down the track, not to mention muscle imbalances that can have a higher potential for injury.
When I found out that I my glutes were not activating through certain movements I shrugged it off at the start. I thought to myself that this could not be the case as I have a decent back squat and deadlift, not realising that just because those two movements are somewhat strong, and what looks to be proficient, are actually results from restricted and non-firing muscles. Which in this instance has made different muscles take the load of the glutes.
The body doest work in isolation, but it does have favourite patterns of movement. The body is super-efficient and will find the shortest possible way to get from point A to point B using as little energy as possible and because of this we can run into problems.
Firstly, make sure that everything is firing correctly is a major part of becoming the best version of you. You may have heard that we are a system of systems, this is also true for muscles. All the muscles need to work in unison, contracting and relaxing to provide the best output for the movement. So if we have something that is not working, for example glutes in a squat then how are we going to get stronger when that muscle doesn’t know it is working?
Secondly we need to make sure that the non-dominant muscles are being work in the same way as the dominant ones. If you always do more reps on your “good side” then how is the weaker side ever going to catch up? The short answer is it’s not, and in fact the disparity between them is going to keep growing making it harder to fix.
So what can we do? I’m going to give you all a few things to think about when you next train and see if you can apply any of these tips to make sure you are getting the most out of your training.
1. Always start on the weaker side when you are doing unilateral (single sided) exercises.
2. Don’t train to failure – It is not needed and can lead to over use issues in correcting the problem. Also it can stop you from training efficiency and effectively, and maybe even all together for a while.
3. Do an extra few reps on the weaker side – this is always a favourite of mine, give yourself the permission to have a bit of OCD and make sure you copy what you have done on one side across to the other no matter what.
4. Start thinking about how you pick items up and put items away…try using the other hand when picking up the barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, box, rower, anything really.
5. Focus on extra work after class that is an auxiliary to WOD - do it with dumbbells or kettlebells (single sided work), it’s a great way to get extra reps out.
One thing I found helpful was looking at the work that needed to be done as a second chance to perform things correctly and build some new muscle. After all that is what you are doing when correcting a problem in the body, and new muscle is awesome…don’t you agree?
In conclusion, it might not seem like it needs to be done today, but one day it will catch up and the plateaus will be real and lasting. So instead of waiting for it to happen, be on the front foot (non-dominant first:) and workout all the weaker muscle just as much, if not a little more for now to help them become just as strong.
Have a great rest of the week and see you in class.
Ciao for now