Staying Balanced

Stay Balanced and Stay Injury-Free

Resistance training, or weight lifting, delivers a plethora of benefits, including increases in strength, loss of fat, improved bone density and an increase in your resting metabolic rate. For these and other reasons, it has earned a place in every healthy lifestyle. However, despite the health benefits it offers, regularly hefting weights during your workout could be making you more susceptible to a future injury, someday bringing your fitness routine to an abrupt and painful stop.

A recent study conducted among college athletes and published in Isokinetics and Exercise has brought this issue into the spotlight. After an initial preseason testing of athletes’ quadriceps and hamstring strength, researchers found a connection between initial strength imbalances and the non-contact injuries that occurred during the season. This clearly suggests that strength imbalance in the muscles of the thigh may be a significant injury risk factor.

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an “athlete”, you certainly don’t want to be sidelined with an injury that may prevent you from achieving your fitness objectives. One of the keys to staying injury-free is respecting the simple principle illustrated the study cited above: Opposing muscles work together to keep your joints stable during activity. Therefore, keeping your muscle strength balanced should be a focus for everyone who picks up a dumbbell or barbell. This is especially crucial since the muscles that are worked for “show,” are often antagonists to muscles that you can’t see in the mirror.

In short, give an equal amount of attention to working your back as you do to working your chest, and invest as much effort in your hamstrings and triceps as you do in your quadriceps and biceps. Also, try incorporating full-body athletic exercises into your workouts rather than just sticking to traditional body-building movements. Exercises like jumps, swings, snatches and tosses encourage the muscles throughout your body to work and develop together. If you make muscle strength balance a goal in the gym, you can stay free of injuries and on track toward your fitness goals.

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