Understanding and correcting the cause of muscle imbalance:
When one muscle lengthens, another muscle shortens - they work as a pair to make specific movements in your body.
Take for example the biceps and triceps and the act of bending and straightening your elbow. When you bend your elbow to touch your nose, the biceps shorten and the triceps lengthen. And when you straighten your elbow to reach your arm out, the triceps shortens and the biceps lengthen. These 2 muscle groups work as a team or a ‘pair’ at all times in your body. The same is true for the front and back of the chest, the front and back of the legs, the front and back of the shoulders, and so on…
We call this relationship in the body ‘Balancing Muscle Groups’. There are 8 pairs of Balancing Muscle groups in your body. 4 Pairs in the upper body and 4 Pairs in the lower body, for a total of 16 muscle groups head to toe.
Given the nature of the Balancing Muscle Group relationship, correcting an imbalance, injury, pain point or tension in any given muscle group in the body requires correction in the pair.
For example. If you have an imbalance or even pain in the front inside of your leg (your groin), you would need to stretch using resistance the back outside of the same leg (lateral hamstring). When you can improve the health of your lateral hamstring by removing some of the dense fascia that has accumulated there, this muscle group will become stronger and more flexible and alleviate the imbalance or symptom you are experiencing in the front inside of the leg. This analysis applies to all 8 pairs of Balancing Muscle Groups.
How do you know if you have muscle imbalance and can it cause pain?
In general most people have an imbalance of muscle strength and flexibility in their body. Some muscles are stronger than others, some muscles have more flexibility, and some muscle have more dense fascia accumulated in them.
Muscle imbalances are both individual and universal.
Universally humans have more dense fascia on the back of the body and less on the front. There are a number of reasons for this but the most important one is that it’s the nature of the tissue. The muscles on the back of the body are tough and tendonous by design. When theses muscles shorten they stand our bodies upright and are responsible for holding a lot of force. They need to be tougher than the muscles on the front.
No matter what individual repetitive physical activities we engage in (sitting, throwing a baseball, doing squats, lifting weights, etc…) without balancing it out with resistance stretching to address the fascia, the muscles on the back of the body are going to be more prone to accumulating dense, unhealthy fascia. Areas like the hamstrings and back of the shoulders are the most prone to becoming dense and stiff with unhealthy fascia.
Whenever there is an imbalance of dense fascia in some muscles verses others, it is going to result in pain and injury. Dense fascia prevents muscles from doing their job in our body and so other muscles (typically the balancing pair) has to overcompensate and make extra movements. Eventually the latter break down, hurt and get injured.
How to fix muscle imbalance and know what body parts should be worked out together.
The best way to fix muscle imbalance in your body is to identify the areas with the most dense fascia and stretch them with resistance. The hamstrings and posterior shoulders are 2 primary areas.
Another way is to identify where you have pain points in your body and avoid stretching and strengthening that area (remember, it’s already over working). Instead stretch it’s balancing pair using resistance to remove the accumulation of dense fascia there. This approach deals with the symptom by going to the root cause.
Upper Body Balancing Muscle Group Pairs:
1. Front of Arms (Anterior) and Back of Arms (Posterior)
2. Inside of Arms (Medial) and Outside of Arms (Lateral)
3. Front Inside of Arms (Anterior Medial) and Back Outside of Arms (Posterior Lateral)
4. Back Inside of Arms (Posterior Medial) and Front Outside of Arms (Anterior Lateral)
Lower Body Balancing Muscle Group Pairs:
1. Front of Legs (Anterior) and Back of Legs (Posterior)
2. Inside of Legs (Medial) and Outside of Legs (Lateral)
3. Front Inside of Legs (Anterior Medial) and Back Outside of Legs (Posterior Lateral)
4. Back Inside of Legs (Posterior Medial) and Front Outside of Legs (Anterior Lateral)
Give this Balancing Pair Stretch Set a try:
- Start with the first stretch for the kidney meridian - the groin - and do 6-10 repetitions on both legs.
- Next go to the second stretch for the bladder meridian - the lateral hamstring - and do 6-10 repetitions on both legs.
- Repeat this process for both stretches - 2 more times for a total of 3 sets of both stretches going back and forth.
*Notice as you go from the kidney to the bladder stretch how it gets better and easier. You have a stronger contraction through a greater range of motion, the stretch feels smoother, if there was strain it's less and less. This is the power of stretching in balancing muscles group pairs!
Pillar 1 - Start Position: Seated with target knee drawn toward chest and hands on the inside of knee.
Pillar 2 - Resist: Drawing your knee into your chest.
Pillar 3 - Lengthen for the Stretch with resistance throughout the movement: Using your hands to press your knee away against resistance.
Pillar 4 - Release and Return to the Start position. Repeat Pillar 1.
Pillar 1 - Start Position: Seated with target knee away from body and hands interlaced around knee.
Pillar 2 - Resist: Pressing knee into hands.
Pillar 3 - Lengthen for the Stretch with resistance throughout the movement: Using hands to draw your knee into your chest.
Pillar 4 - Release and Return to the Start position. Repeat Pillar 1.
8 thoughts on “Balancing Muscle Groups – The Root Cause of Pain is Not Where You Feel It”
Can I tell you I love these new emails/ with the attached blog posts for explanation!
It just helps me understand the whole process and makes it visible to me.
Also helps me define which exercise assists my areas of discomfort and alerts me to a result
Thank you so much for this addition!
Thanks for telling us Diane! It is always so great to know that what we are doing is having an impact!!!
I’ve been having pain in what feels like my left SI joint. It radiates into my hip, crosses over into front of my groin, quad and the back to lateral aspect of knee into my lower anterior leg.
Is this the right stretch for this? I’m having trouble sleeping at night due to pain and cannot lay on left side long as it then begins to ache strongly.
Thank you so much
Hey! So if the pain is in the SI joint – I would stretch the adductors. The Liver meridian. But when you describe the way in which it radiates down your leg I am wondering if it could be sciatic nerve – in which case you would want to focus on the hip flexors (sexual meridian) and also brain (central hamstring) stretches.
I have been in your membership for the past year and this is hands down the BEST stretching method I have tried. It has almost been a year since I have been stretching using the Bendable Body method and my body is not stiff anymore and if I do have a pain I understand how to fix it quickly now using the balancing pairs concept. This knowledge is invaluable. Thank you John and Sita for dedication and sharing your knowledge!
Thanks for posting this!!! I am so thrilled to hear it Cherie – we want people to be empowered to fix their body and it’s awesome that you are!
I seemed to have pulled my left posterior neck muscle when doing the pectoral stretches (I can’t think of what else I did to cause this muscle soreness). What is the counter balance for the upper part of the trapezius? This is the first injury in a year of doing Bendable Body stretches, I am pleased to be a member of your team.
Hey Karen, So if you are having pain the traps and back of the neck, that is in Thymus and Large Intestine… so you would go to Appendix and Lung. But you are saying that you caused the strain when doing a pec stretch (which would be lung, heart or pericardium)… so if you are going to go to a pec stretch to remove the strain I would encourage you to resist maximally and be sure careful on range. Keep it short. Let us know how you do – post in the membership or FB group for the fasted response.