Muscle imbalances are very common. Sometimes they’re very easy to spot for instance check out this Facebook Page dedicated to Rafael Nadal’s arms and how much bigger his left arm is to his right (he is a left-hander, of course). I’ll put the picture here as well –
In this photo it’s clear his left forearm is particularly larger than the right. This is a worry for him as his shirts won’t button around his wrists correctly and people will start referring to him as tennis’ “elephant man”. They will.
But seriously a guy like Nadal has ended up with this gross (not in the “ewwww” gross but in the “big” gross..) difference due to the fact he hits a lot of tennis balls, a lot, with only his left arm working. But then why doesn’t Roger Federer have the gross difference in arms or some of the other tennis players? Actually if you look closely a lot of pro tennis players do have the imbalance but perhaps don’t suffer the same scrutiny our fine Spanish dude does! I say a lot but not Federer, nor some of the other top guys like Djokovic for instance. Why does Nadal have it but not others? I would take an educated guess and say it’s due to their Trainers being unaware of muscle imbalances and the potential for injury they create. Maybe Nadal’s trainer sucks? Although there’s no doubt Nadal is fit, running down shots that most wouldn’t even attempt. Maybe his Trainer is good on cardio and not so good on strength?
I have blogged about training like a bodybuilder in the past. You know the style, training splits that involve chest/biceps, back/triceps, quads/hamstrings, shoulders/calves, these being the usual splits. Guys and girls that train like this regularly have problems, they may HATE legs day so effort levels are low. Or they hate back/tri day. Or they always do legs day on the weekends, when they have a lot of time to do smackloads of sets. Or travel cuts a swathe through their program and 1 session always gets neglected. This is a recipe for muscle imbalance because try as they might, effort levels always vary and as a consequence, growth varies as well.
The top professional bodybuilders take photo’s, use video, watch themselves in the mirror and have coaches that appraise their physiques. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are using software that allows them to determine their proportionality and symmetry. But your average Joe doesn’t have such expertise or knowledge available. He/she can’t determine whether they’re training with enough intensity every time and how to mix things around to get to the desired result. Which is winning a bodybuilding competition. That’s why there is bodybuilding and bodybuilders. Or more accurately the competition is a visual comparison between various meat-heads conducted by other meat-heads. Sorry but it’s true. So if all this is about winning a competition where physiques are judged against each other, why are 80% of people training like this in gyms when virtually none of them will compete? Can someone tell me? Is it a knowledge issue. I mean is it they don’t know any better and certainly it’s very clear most professional personal trainers don’t?
What if you lifted weights using your whole body? In a style that incorporated many muscles and joints all at the same time? Wouldn’t that significantly reduce the potential for muscle imbalance? After-all, if they’re all working together at the same time, there actually can’t be any imbalances because your not isolating a muscle or group.
Does that then mean machines are pointless? Oh damn, yes it does! Sorry Life Fitness, Nautilus, oops Technogym (except of course Kinesis – wonderful!!), Hammerstrength, Cybex etc etc…..
Dean said to me once “bro, you know one of the best core exercises is the push up” and he’s right. Core, upper body, both working, hard! Then you can do split hands, wide, narrow, push jumps, superman’s, endless!! Who needs a machine to regress your physique?? Because regress and point you in the direction of injury is what machines will do.
Train smart. Train with people that KNOW fitness. People that understand the body and what it takes to make it work for you!