Movement imbalances happen when one side of your body moves noticeably differently than its opposite side, leading you to overcompensate during exercise, and they’re pretty common.
They’re different to muscle imbalances, which refer to a difference in strength in opposing muscle groups.
Movement imbalances usually happen when one side of your body is stronger or more flexible than the other. For example, one arm leads ahead when you try a push press, or you lean more on one leg during squatting.
A different name for movement imbalances is bad alignment.
Bilateral asymmetry of movement is a more complicated but impressive term for movement imbalances.
Dr Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and cofounder of Renaissance Periodization, explains what movement imbalances are in the below video:
Are movement imbalances bad and should you fix them?
Whether a movement imbalance is bad and you should try to fix it depends on the severity of the muscle imbalance.
|Clinical movement imbalance||Subclinical movement imbalance|
|The imbalance has a severe impact on your life and causes consistent pain and discomfort.||The imbalance exists, but it doesn’t cause pain or dysfunction of movement.|
|What to do about it?||What to do about it?|
|Seek a qualified sports medicine doctor so they can diagnose the problem and direct you to the best solution.||If it doesn’t bother you, you can leave it be. If you do want to fix it, reduce the load of your exercises and focus on technique, and only increase load once a balanced technique is second nature.|
Should you do isolation exercises for your weak side?
If you notice you have a movement imbalance, whether on your legs or your arms, doing isolation exercises for the weaker side might not be the solution to the asymmetry.
The movement imbalance might be caused by:
- Insufficiently large muscular tissue
- Neural programming
- Compensating for a different asymmetry
Which means isolation exercises aren’t necessarily the answer or solution. You can try them however, just know that it’s not guaranteed to fix the movement imbalance, and that you should continue to include bilateral and compound exercises to your training to maintain strength on your leading side.
- movement-imbalances: Stevie D Photography