Ease in the Body is all about Muscle Balance

muscle balanceMuscle balance or muscle strength—which do you think is more important? The design of the body requires that muscles work in pairs, each opposing the other’s actions. There are a number of deeply primitive functions that allow the body to do its thing. One of them is called reciprocal inhibition. In order for once muscle to engage or shorten its opposite must relax or lengthen.

An easy way to see or feel reciprocal inhibition for yourself is to pick up any object in your right hand with that elbow bent. If you touch your biceps, the muscle between the elbow and the shoulder that faces the ceiling, it will be hard. If you touch the underside of your arm, the triceps you will find that it is flaccid. This is reciprocal inhibition at work at it require muscle balance in the two opposing muscles.

Let’s stick with the triceps and biceps and say that the biceps is way stronger of more over developed that the triceps. This can happen simple by doing an exercise for the biceps (curls for instance), without doing a corresponding exercise for the triceps (dips on a chair).  If this is the case, and I find that this type of situation is happening all over the body—most often in the abdominals (a tyranny of the rectus abdominus muscle over all others), and the inner and outer thigh (the IT band and tensor fascia latae dominating the underused and weak inner thigh muscles), muscle balance is missing. Developing muscle balance requires a balanced exercise routine.

If the bicep is over developed when it wants to shorten to accommodate the extension or lengthening of the triceps there won’t be a problem but if we ask for the opposite action—a shortening of the tricep which requires a lengthening of the biceps it won’t be available. This will happen for two reasons. 1- the tensile strength of the biceps, if short won’t have the length that is asked of it because you have built this muscle through repeated exercises that have reduced its elasticity in relation to the tricep. And 2- if you haven’t increased the tensile strength of the triceps in relation to the bicep it won’t have the tone necessary to counteract the tone of the bicep.

Take stock of your body and your exercise routine. We need to develop our bodies with an eye towards muscle balance rather than muscle strength.


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