What would your ideal body look like? Go ahead and ask this to someone who incorporates weight training into their fitness routine. More often than not you’ll get a response about wanting a completely toned, defined and muscular body from head to toe. Makes sense. In our mind we envision our ideal body to look somewhere in between a perfectly toned specimen to a freakishly ripped & cut mass of muscle. We all have our own idea of just how muscular we want to be.
The only problem is that many people don’t truly structure their workout so that they can reach this total body level of harmony. That is why it’s so important to concentrate on oppositional muscles to make sure you maintain balance in your workout, while striving to prevent injuries that could happen down the road.
Oppositional muscles are those that work together to give you stability and range of motion. Each muscle is equally as important as its opposing muscle group, however we often tend to favor one over the other.
Let’s look at the oppositional muscles in the leg for example. – the quadriceps and hamstrings. Although there are exercises that work both muscles, many people tend to go above and beyond to try and get that nice teardrop look in the quad through some sets of leg extensions without balancing this out with leg curls. But in order for the quads to be strengthened, the hamstring muscles must also be strong and flexible.
Why? Take running for example. When you run up a hill, your hamstrings work to strengthen the leg while the quads are lengthening to balance them out in helping create movement at your knee. Running down the hill has the opposite effect – your quads now do the work and your hamstrings are lengthening and relaxing. Have you ever gone on a run that was mostly downhill thinking it was easy and then wonder why your quads were so sore later in the day? If you don’t work both these muscles to compensate for each other, that’s when injuries can occur.
Other opposing muscle groups include the pectorals and upper back, biceps and triceps, and what I think are the set that are the most unbalanced in most people – the abs and lower back. How many sets of ab exercises do you do compared to lower back exercises? I’m guilty of this myself. We’re always in the mindset that we need to blast our abs to exhaust and strengthen them, but forget that to truly get the abdominal section we desire the key is in the lower back.
We all have our favorite muscle groups. But whether it is to help prevent injury or optimize your workout – Balance is everything.