There is a familiar phrase constantly heard across Pole Fitness studios: “practice on your left!” “spin to the other side! Do students really understand the meaning and importance of this instruction? Do they follow the advise? Is it only a matter of developing skill or is there deeper reasoning behind it? Muscular imbalances are not to take lightly: they can affect our physical appearance, balance, and overall health.
What are muscular imbalances? Muscular imbalance is defined as “ a deviation in normal facilitation or inhibition of muscle resulting from a physical, mental, or chemical stressor and often leading to further related imbalances and joint dysfunctions that may take months or years to manifest”. The human body requires a balance in strength and flexibility between the muscles surrounding bones and joints for it to function properly. Inappropriate strength training and repetitive motion (poling on one side only) can easily cause unwanted muscular imbalances. Natural predispositions (genetics) can also create a tendency for specific muscles to be stronger or more elastic than others. Pole gymnast are well aware of which side is the “good side” when it comes to Pole Fitness: exercises are often much easier to preform on one side of the body, hence there is a natural tendency to emphasize practice on that side only.
What are the consequences of muscular imbalances? By having one side of the body much stronger than other, the body is pulled away of its natural midline creating an “ inappropriate or poor posture”. Not only this affects the way we physically present our selves (visible muscle development and posture), but it can also cause chronic muscle soreness, develop a spinal curvature, subluxations (misaligned vertebra that leads stress and irritation of nerves), blood vessel constriction ( cutting off blood supply to cells = less oxygen and blood supply), nerve constriction (pinched nerves), and list goes on. Poor posture has even an effect on the way we digest our food! Simply said, a body with muscular imbalances does not function properly: it’s athletic and daily performance are compromised. Moreover, when muscle strength and flexibility around a joint are not well balanced, tendency to injury considerably increases and so do the chances of being “forced off” training for weeks, even months.
So how are muscular imbalances to be avoided? The most obvious answer comes back to the same repetitive phrase “ practice also on your left!” meaning on the non-dominant side, and in equal training frequency and strength as the dominant one. Additionally, attention needs to be given to flexibility imbalances and muscles should be elongated always after workouts and during daily routines. When having a lot of difficulty performing an specific move on the less dominant side, the instructor should provide an alternative cross training exercise option, to ensure balance in muscle development.
Trainers: Always make time on your class to practice exercises and spins on both arms / sides of the body. Remember that most out-of-class practices are usually on dominant side only! Emphasize the importance of having a well balanced body in all its aspects and educate your class.
Students: Exercise train smart and make time during practice to teach the “weak side” to become strong and coordinated, avoiding potential injuries and becoming a better athlete overall.
Thanks for reading! GVE