If you’re into sports—particularly those that have a dominant side such as tennis, golf, football, and ice skating—your typical workouts might be hiding something. Muscle imbalances can crop up because one side is working so much harder. Picture the power generation necessary to throw a ball or perform an ice skating jump. If you are dealing with a muscle imbalance, you may not even realize it. Your body is great at compensating for deficits in movements like deadlifts and even pull-ups. Signs of muscle imbalance include single-sport training or focusing on one muscle group, posture problems, demonstrable strength or flexibility differences on the left or right side, or pain that’s not caused by an injury, according to physicians at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, California. Left too long, it can lead to things like muscle strains or joint issues owing to the added pressure caused by the force production.
The good news is that it’s fixable. In a study of 24 young football players, those who had muscle imbalances could correct it using individualized resistance training, according to a study in PLoS One. So we’ve put together a four-move circuit that isolates each side of your body, forcing your weaker side to work hard on its own. Try this circuit two or three times a week to help you get strong—and even.
This is a leg-focused workout so make sure to get the blood flowing with jumping jacks or a short jog, then do air squats and a hip opener like pigeon pose.
There are two moves with reps—pistol squats and sprinter lunges. Do 12 reps on each side. And do one minute of the holds—30 seconds per side. Do 3 or 4 sets, resting 30 seconds between sets.
#1 Pistol squats
Stand about three foot lengths in front of a plyo box or workout bench, facing away from the box or bench. Lift left leg up, hold hands together in front of chest, and slowly lower until you just touch the bench, then reverse and rise explosively to start. Stay balanced on one leg as much as possible throughout the set. Do all 12 reps on your left leg, then switch legs and repeat on the right side.
#2 Single-leg glute bridge with hold
Start in a glute bridge, with shoulder blades on floor, shins perpendicular to the ground, feet flat, hips high, and lift left leg. Hold for a few seconds, then drop hips to tap ground and immediately lift hips again and hold. Continue holding and tapping for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat on the right leg.
#3 Sprinter lunges
Start in a lunge position with feet staggered, left leg in front, right knee hovering above floor, arms beside you and bent in a runners position. Press through feet explosively and switch feet and arm positions, then immediately switch back. Continue switching back and forth for 12 reps on each side.
#4 Side glute plank hold
Start in a side plank on your left side, left elbow below left shoulder, feet stacked, hips high, and lift right leg. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat on the right.
More workouts from foodspring: