Monday, May 5, 2008

Muscle Imbalances Need Correction To Improve Sports Performance

Achieving optimal muscular fitness requires flexibility, strength, endurance, power, and speed.

These components should be included in an integrated sports training program. In some sports, such as baseball and tennis, the dominant side of the upper body develops more than the non-dominant side.

Other sports such as running, soccer, and cycling may emphasize the lower body more than the upper body. And, if certain patterns or muscular actions are performed repeatedly, muscles develop more in either the front of the body (football offensive linemen) or the back of the body (rowers).

Competitors in all sports benefit from an integrated sports training program focusing on 3-dimensional muscular balance. An integrated sports training program will help overall athleticism, prevent injuries and enhance performance.

Opposing muscle groups should be in balance. For example, the quadriceps group/hamstring group should be in balance (or the quads should not be significantly stronger than the hamstrings).

Female athletes, in particular, generally have lesser levels of hamstring strength because they dominate more with the quadriceps (when walking or running). Research has proven that inadequate hamstring strength contributes to knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.

To avoid developing muscle imbalances or to correct muscle imbalances, you should do the following:

1) Have a postural assessment performed by a fitness professional. This assessment will indicate where your muscles are tight, weak or lengthened.

It will also indicate patterns of postural dysfunction called postural distortion patterns. Distortion patterns occur because the structural integrity of the kinetic chain (human movement system) is compromised due to the misalignment of one or more of its components.

2) Develop a comprehensive flexibility routine.

3) Weight training should focus on the total body to avoid muscle imbalances.

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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