Johnny started a new training routine consisting of pull-ups, dips, squats, and push-ups. Insecure about the outcome of similar training, he asked a big bro for advice.
“Is this routine any good,” said Johnny.
“No, it’s garbage. I can see exceptional shoulder and ankle imbalances forming,” replied Chris.
“Muscle imbalances? What are you talking about, Chris?”
“Where are your rear delt flies and rotator cuff work? Your shoulders are going to explode. Besides, your push to pull ratio is off. It’s 2 to 1 in favor of pushing. Did you read the latest article on Bro-Nation?”
“Oh, no! I have been following this routine for about 2 weeks, 12 days to be exact. Is the damage permanent? Will I ever recover,” replied Johnny. His voice was full of strong anxiety.
“I don’t know. You better include rows and rear delt flies, shin raises, reverse wrist curls, neck extensions, side laterals, ear raises and something for your lower abs too.”
The modern muscle media is one of the many reasons why lifters suffer from muscle imbalances paranoia. There are people who think that their shoulders will shut down without stupid stuff like rear delt flies and face pulls. The truth is that muscular imbalances are not as dangerous as the mainstream fitness articles proclaim.
If you are doing compound exercises covering the whole body, it’s very unlikely to experience dangerous side effects.
What if I told you that having muscle imbalances is actually normal?
There are two major types of muscle imbalances. The first type is the result of neglecting an area completely whereas the other type is caused by insufficient muscle activation during compound exercises.
The first one occurs when a muscle receives zero training. In that case, the muscle group cannot get stronger because there is no stimulation. This could be a problem, but there is no need to dramatize.
Many sports are lower or upper body dominant. There is a big difference between skateboarding and rock climbing, for example. Skateboarding is focused on the lower body whereas rock climbing places a higher emphasis on grip and back strength.
I can assure you that skateboarders couldn’t care less about the size of their arms. Ultimately, everything depends on your priorities. When you are not a bodybuilder or a fitness model who is going to be judged on stage, there is no need to freak out if your rear delts are not coming up.
In a recent post, I talked extensively about the upper body captains. While I don’t consider similar training optimal, the truth is that your life could be just fine training wise even if all you do for your legs is jogging and bike rides to the local bar.
The second type of imbalance comes as a result of your body structure and technique. Different compound exercises have a different effect on different people. Some lifters are arm and leg dominant whereas others are torso and hip dominant. The result is imbalanced development.
This is where assistance exercise can be used to bring up a lagging body part. However, you don’t need five trucks of movements. 1-2 will be sufficient most of the time.
You can’t train all the muscles in the body equally.
Even if you wanted to, you can’t train all your muscles equally. When was the last time you trained your shins directly for example? It’s not realistic to follow a routine that focuses on every single muscle. It’s not practical.
It doesn’t take much to avoid muscle imbalances.
Avoiding major muscle imbalances is not hard at all. All you have to do is include basic exercises that cover the following moving patterns: squat, push, pull, twist (optional).
If you have a specific issue, work on it, but don’t develop paranoia because your training doesn’t make the gurus happy. Those guys are just broken clocks anyway.
P.S. The post on the natty potential has been updated.