Balance out your muscles

Marjie Gilliam / Cox Newspapers /

Regular exercise can help reduce and even eliminate strength imbalances.

A proven and popular method of correcting strength imbalances involves exercises that work against gravity using body weight as resistance. I recently reviewed the Mighty Body Band, a product designed to allow the user to focus on aspects of strength, flexibility and balance for total-body conditioning.

The unit is operated by fixing it to a stationary anchor point, with six modes of operation, and uses the individual’s body weight and personal strength level to train the muscles at different angles. The MBB is great for in-home use, and the lightweight, compact design also makes it a portable exercise option. Available in two models, each comes with an exercise guide, instructional DVD, carrying bag and access to website how-to videos.

The Lite model is designed for people who want to primarily release low back pain, tight hamstrings and shoulders, and it can also be used to tone the body and create greater agility. The Elite model incorporates lower, mid and upper body to work with a greater range of exercise options related to activating all muscle groups. For more information, visit www.yogabent.com.

Traditional strength training workouts often include machines designed to promote using both arms at the same time when lifting, pushing or pulling the weight, such as when using a chest press or shoulder press machine. With regular use of such machines, invariably the stronger arm will continue to do more work than the weaker one, promoting muscle imbalances.

Instead of using both arms at the same time, try reducing the weight and using only one arm at a time. Stick with equal weight as you do your single-limb exercises. And start with the weaker arm. Count the number of repetitions and do the same amount with the stronger limb. Consider this a “maintenance phase” for the stronger muscles while the weaker ones have a chance to catch up in strength.

Another option is to substitute dumbbell exercises for machine exercises. Holding onto equally weighted dumbbells to do bicep curls, for example, allows you to work each arm independently and assures you that the same resistance is always being pulled by each arm.

Take a good look at the exercises you normally do for the lower body. Just as with upper-body exercises, machines designed to work the legs often encourage use of both at the same time. Instead of doing the leg press, for example, try doing lunges, single leg squats or pushing a lighter weight with only one leg if using a machine.