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How Muscle Imbalance Affects Your Workout Routine & How to Fix It

How Muscle Imbalance Affects Your Workout Routine & How to Fix It

What happens when you get muscle imbalances, and how does it impact your workout? Learn what you can do to fix muscle imbalance to get the most out of your workout routine.

The Easy Way to Find and Fix Muscle Imbalances

When you put in time in at the gym, you want to see positive results. All that hard work should reward you with a good physique. But sometimes you could run into an obstacle such as muscle imbalance. Although fixable, this is a condition that makes it difficult to reach your fitness goals on time.

You can also use muscle recovery supplements to reach your goals faster, but this is a whole new topic for discussion.

Once you notice some muscle imbalance symptoms, it’s important to fix them ASAP. And here we will teach you how to do it.

What is Muscle Imbalance?

Before we address how to fix muscle imbalance, it’s important to know what this is, exactly. Muscle imbalance is a condition when a muscle (or muscle group) on one side of the body is bigger, weaker, and/or smaller than the one on the other side.

While this condition can develop anywhere on your body, the most common types of muscle imbalance are Upper and Lower Crossed Syndrome.

  • Upper Crossed Syndrome occurs on your upper body – with shoulder, neck, and chest muscles.
  • Lower Crossed Syndrome follows the same logic – it’s when you have an imbalance of lower body muscles. The most common one is in the pelvic area.

Muscle Imbalance Causes

There are a lot of causes of muscle imbalance. But the most common one is when you train one muscle group while neglecting the other. For example, doing more reps on dumbbell curls with a strong arm could cause muscle imbalances between the weaker and stronger arm. So it’s always important to incorporate a workout routine, that helps you to balance upper and lower body workout to develop a proportionate physique.

You could also suffer muscle imbalances because of bad posture, inactivity, natural development, or exercising with improper form.

How Muscle Imbalances Affect Your Workout Routine

Strengthening your muscles is beneficial. But if you focus on specific areas and neglect others – that is when you may suffer from muscle imbalances. And this condition is a lot more serious than you might think. Because muscle imbalance can affect posture and lead to limited mobility. If several muscle groups are not functioning efficiently, the imbalance can change the joint path of motion. This places you at risk of injury while lifting heavy objects or during routine workouts.

Shortened muscles can alter joint movements and cause difficulties that prevent you from fully extending and using your muscles. This means your joints don’t get the support they need to stay healthy. You may also experience muscle imbalance causing the pain, because of shortened hip flexors, which cause knee and low back pain.

There’s an increased risk of injury, which includes damage to tendons, connective tissue, muscles, bones, ligaments, and joints. Besides, imbalances in your muscles are a rather cosmetical issue too, that can affect your self-esteem and confidence.

How to Spot Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalance diagnosis is easy. The first type of imbalance you can notice is asymmetry. Grab a measuring tape and compare your muscles. Also, take some time to analyze the connection between your lower and upper halves and the front and back muscles to spot flaws. it’s also a good idea to take pictures from different angles. If you have a muscle imbalance, it will usually be visible.

How to Prevent Muscle Imbalances

You can prevent muscle imbalance by incorporating a workout program, based on compound exercises that build your entire body. But overall the best way to avoid muscle imbalance is to work on every area of your body. Don’t obsess about building huge muscles in a single area! If you’re doing lunges or lifting weights, always do the same amount of reps on either side.


How to Fix Muscle Imbalances

In order to avoid and fix muscle imbalances, it’s useful to remember several tips that will help you battle it:

1 – Unilateral Exercises

Unilateral exercises are probably the best muscle imbalance treatment. These are single-leg or arm movements, that ensure that each side of your body works as hard without your dominant muscle aiding the weaker side. The main benefit of these exercises is the fact that you’re using both sides of the body equally.

2 – Begin With the Weaker Side

Naturally, one side of your body will be dominant. You’ll favor the stronger side even without knowing because it feels easier for you. So if you’re right-handed, your right side will usually be dominant and vice versa. But always try to prioritize your weaker side, if you wish to avoid and fix muscle imbalance problem. It will also protect you from any muscle imbalances that might occur.

3 – Use Your Weaker Side to Set Workout Volume

If you choose to train the dominant side first, the weaker side will struggle to keep up. The best solution is to use your weaker side to set the workload. Starting on your weaker side helps you determine the amount of work your stronger side will do. This in turn stops the dominant side from outworking the other side. If you want to do 4 sets of 10 reps on lunges and the weaker side can only handle 7, that’s the number your stronger side should do as well, even if you can do more with it.

Always strive for balance.

4 – Perform Additional Workout on Your Weaker Side

Balancing the load of work on both sides is not enough to address the existing problem. You must also do additional workouts on the weaker side. Exercises, such as muscle imbalance stretches, will help you fix the proportional imbalances.

Increase workout load on the weaker side, or reduce the workout load on your dominant side, if you wish to maintain the same routine. An extra workout on the troubled area of the body will speed up recovery.

5 – Fix the Underlying Issue

Every problem has an origin, so if you fix your muscle imbalances and forget about what caused them, you might be back there sooner. While all these strategies will fix your muscle imbalance, you should explore other possibilities. Maybe your technique is wrong, or you’re not focused enough. Also, you could be struggling with flexibility or mobility, making it difficult to perform certain workouts.

For example, limited mobility on one shoulder can affect your shoulder and bench press workout and result in one side taking more work than the other. Once you identify the underlying problem, improve your mobility and flexibility around that area to prevent the imbalance from coming back.


Conclusion

Muscle imbalances are a part of the workout process. Ignoring them could lead to injuries since both your posture and flexibility are affected. Besides, you don’t want to be lifting weights when your body cannot maintain the perfect proportion you require to stay on your feet.

Before you get started fixing your muscle imbalances, probe your condition to understand the underlying problem, which you must address first, then embrace a workout routine that ensures balanced input between the weaker and dominant sides of your body.

And that’s all there is to it! Hopefully, we managed to answer all your questions regarding muscle imbalance, and how you can fix it.

Do you have additional tips to share? Let us know in the comments below, we would love to know!

More on Fixing Joint Pain and Correcting Muscular Imbalances >>


Author’s bio: The writer is Thomas Nemel. He is passionate about writing and enthusiastic about bodybuilding. In his spare time, he likes to ride his motorbike. Thomas always tries to engage people in healthy living through his writings.


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Sandbag Training | Using Sandbags For Strength Training

Sandbag Training

Using Sandbags For Strength Training

Using sandbags for strength training has been around for quite some time. But not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon and traded their dumbbells for a burlap sandbag.

Besides being cheap to purchase (or making one yourself), sandbags offer several strength benefits that make it worthwhile in adding to your workout routine.

Here are a few examples…

Sandbag Training

Builds Core Strength

It’s always a good idea to strengthen your core muscles as much as you can. Core exercises strengthen your underlying muscle tissue and can help to prevent injuries.

When doing a sandbag strength training routine, you’re engaging your core muscles with almost every movement. Even if the exercise itself is not entirely focused on core strengthening.

A sandbag shifts it’s center of gravity constantly. Which feels different and often more difficult when compared to traditional weights. Also, by switching between different types of sandbag fillers, you can add diversity to your workout.

Sandbag Training Doesn’t Require Much Space

Barbells, plates, machines, and squat racks can all take up a lot of space. If you want to improve your strength, using sandbags for weight training is not only affordable, but they also require very little space. This makes them perfect for home gyms and home workouts where you can have a flexible way of working on your strength whenever you feel like it.

You can also take them anywhere. So if you ever find yourself somewhere lacking exercise equipment, for example when traveling, then getting a sandbag could be the answer!

Versatile Exercises

Sandbag workouts are not only effective but also versatile. You can use them for almost any type of exercise.

They can be used for traditional compound exercises such as squats, bench press, power cleans, deadlifts, and more. And because sandbags are soft, they have a low impact on your joints and you can perform less rigid movements.

There are exercises that are unique to sandbags such as the bear crawl; which are good for building stamina and working the core. There are also bear hug squats which are a good alternative to the front squat.

When it comes to cardio-related exercises, there are sandbag sprints and carries. These are not only high-intensity but they also heavily work the legs.

In a similar way you might use a wobble board for stability and balance, this sort of training can also be developed with a sandbag. You can even combine the two for a crazy stability building session. This work with unstable objects can be useful for many sports.

As you can see, sandbags can replace a lot of the equipment needed for most exercises.

Sandbags Come In Different Types

No matter which level you are in your fitness or strength training, you’ll find that there is a sandbag to accommodate your needs. Some bags can weigh up to 400 pounds; which are perfect for those wanting to gain serious strength.

You can also choose from different material qualities, the number of handles, and sizes.

As mentioned earlier, it’s possible to use different filler weights; you can add or remove them accordingly to suit different workouts. This makes them perfect for CrossFit routines where different exercises are performed in a single session.

Pricier sandbags can be water-resistant and withstand heavy-duty usage. With all the different sandbags available on the market, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that can suit your level of fitness and your exact requirements.

Various Strength Training Variables

When compared to weight training, using a sandbag offers an excellent range of training variables to enhance your strength. Your body’s position, holding position, and the plane of motion can have a larger scale by using a sandbag when compared to traditional weights.

For example, there are around 11 positions to hold a sandbag versus only four positions when using a barbell. There’s a whole list of possibilities of training variables when you use sandbags.

These ways of lifting sandbags and making changes to your body’s position can alter how an exercise feels and the results that come afterward.

Also, planes of motion with a sandbag, such as shoulder squats, rotational lunges, and lateral drags, can make your strength training more elaborate and progressive.


Conclusion

Sandbag training can be a game-changer for your strength training routine. Depending on your fitness level, there is a lot of gym equipment that a weighted bag can replace.

As we’ve discussed, there are so many exercises that are possible with one training bag.

Progressing your strength training is very achievable using heavy sandbags. And if you want a versatile workout that you can perform almost anywhere, then a sandbag is a fantastic option!

Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Gain 101

Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Gain 101

As we quickly approach fall season for many high school and Collegiate athletes across the country, strength gain and muscle hypertrophy are common goals for many athletes. What are some ways that we can promote strength gain as gym-goers and athletes? Let’s take a look…

This is a Guest Post from EverybodysPersonalTrainer.com


Keys To Building Muscle Size and Strength

Linear Progression

Before we can discuss muscle hypertrophy and strength, we need to first take a look at the physiological response our muscles have to exercise. When a load is placed upon a muscle belly, the muscle tissue is broken down and thus needs time to recover. During this recovery process, your muscles adapt by growing bigger and stronger; through muscle hypertrophy.

So it goes without saying that one of the most important ways to increase muscle size and strength is to linearly increase the load upon the muscle in the form of increased poundage.

Proper Rest

Ample rest and recovery time between bouts of exercise is also very important for strength and muscle gain. Have you ever heard the saying that you grow and become stronger outside of the gym? Therein does lie the truth. Much of the adaptation that is being made is happening on those rest and recovery days outside of the gym.

Proper Nutrition

Now that we have discussed load and weight-bearing activity as well as rest and recovery, we now have to consider proper nutrition. Protein is responsible for building, maintaining, and repairing muscle tissue. As a strength athlete or gym-goer looking to promote strength gain, it is very important to get at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight daily. Ideally spacing these meals at 2-3 hour intervals throughout the day is best.

According to personal trainer Eric Leader, post-workout protein and carbohydrates are essential. It is said that the 30 minutes after a bout of exercise is typically called “the anabolic window” and is an excellent time to take in additional protein.

Consistency

Finally, consistency over time may be the most important factor to increase muscle size and strength. As long as you exercise consistently over time, you will experience results. The name of the game is to stay vigilant and to stay in it for the long haul.

Get a Workout Program >>

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5 Benefits of Pyramid Sets

5 Benefits of Pyramid Sets

Pyramid sets are considered to be one of the best methods for gaining both size and strength.

They’ve stood the test of time, much like their counterparts in the Egyptian desert.

But when it comes to actually talk about the benefits, we don’t always focus on more than this.

In this article, we’ll be discussing just a handful of those other benefits that you should know about before going back to doing straight sets.

What is Pyramid Training? >>


#1 – Pyramid Sets Warm You Up

Starting off your pyramid sets with lower weights is a great way to get warmed up. 

Many people perform 3 or more sets just to get warmed up. And this can prevent injuries and also get your muscles primed for heavier lifting.

Performing pyramid training is all about gradually increasing the weight each set, while simultaneously decreasing the reps.

So, for this reason, warm-ups are built into your training from the outset!

#2  – Helps Activate CNS

Activating your CNS (Central Nervous System) is one of the key ways to maximize your strength. And it’s no secret that pyramid sets are great at doing this.

Many people go into the gym and try to lift a weight from the beginning and can’t. But when using pyramid sets to build their way up by activating their CNS and warming up, they often can.

#3 – Pyramid Sets Keep You Motivated

One way to make sure you’re not motivated is to always be doing the same workouts, lifting the same weights. 

If those weights are especially heavy you might start to dread your sessions. And that’s the worst thing possible for any lifter.

Consistency is the ladder to success. And without motivation, you can’t be consistent.

#4 – Allows You To ‘Feel It Out’

Going back to our second point, sometimes people will go into the gym and try to lift a weight and fail.

However, with pyramid training, you’re going to be able to know before you attempt a lift whether it’s going to be too heavy for you or not.

If you’re struggling with your warmup sets, it’s going to be unsafe for you to try your heaviest working set. 

It’s usually a good sign that you’re tired, not fully recovered, or haven’t eaten enough.

It’s incredibly useful feedback that can save you injuries and a lot of frustration.

#5 – Keeps Energy In The Tank

Usually, most people are going to be performing more than a single heavy compound lift during a workout.

So pacing yourself is really important. And pyramid training does that for you. Each set increases the workload but decreases the reps. 

So your total volume is moderate rather than insanely high. This then allows you to repeat the same process on other lifts and exercises.

Conclusion on Pyramid Sets in Training

Pyramid sets have many benefits, including psychological ones, not just strength and muscular based ones. Implementing them into your training from time to time is a great idea and shouldn’t be overlooked.


Get a Workout Program >>

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Utilizing a Proper Warm-Up System for Strength Training

Utilizing a Proper Warm-Up System for Strength Training

Resistance bands offer a better way to warm up dynamically alongside various non-resistance band movements. A mixture of both is the best way to activate your muscles prior to lifting and increase your joint range of motion (ROM) temporarily to perform better. There are a variety of ways to warm-up prior to training, such as foam rolling, and adding resistance bands could make several beneficial changes.

This is a Guest Article by Sarah Peterson of ProPRTeam.com

Get our in-depth How To Warm-Up Guide >>


What’s the Purpose for a Warm-Up?

A proper warm-up is recommended to improve your performance regardless of what your training focus is. The intent behind a warm-up is to physically and mentally preparing your body for the workout through increased heart rate, range of motion, and muscle activation.

Muscle stiffness and soreness often reduce flexibility, which can affect the way you execute exercises, especially when the resistance is higher. For example, tight hamstrings and glutes can make it difficult to execute squats efficiently.

Foam rolling and dynamic stretches help relieve this tightness and improve overall flexibility. Then light muscle activation for stabilizer muscles to be used that day may help drastically.

This is accomplished through mobility work and a dynamic warm-up. Injury prevention may be a factor for the warm-up with some, but the overall purpose is doing better during your training. Studies are very mixed when it comes to preventing any injuries.

Learn more with our complete How To Warm-Up Guide >>


Different Phases of the Warm-Up

Your warm-up prior to training doesn’t need to take a long duration. The point is to choose areas for foam rolling purposes to improve mobility for the focus of the day. Then dynamic stretches for flexibility and priming muscles through activation exercises.

Increasing Heart Rate

This is a quick 5-minute portion for your warm-up to increase your body temperature and blood circulation. Flexibility occurs better chances to improve and relieve muscle tightness after they have been warmed up.

During this phase, you can do a brisk jog, cycle, rowing, and other various cardio activities. This is an important phase for your warm-up and is often overlooked. But it is not an intense set of sprints or anything. Simply brief cardio to increase your heart rate and get the blood pumping.

Mobility Support

Sustained pressure from foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and other various myofascial release tools help with mobility. This is not to be confused with actual mobility work, which is taking a limb through its entire range of motion.

Instead, you are working on the tight muscles to relieve this stiffness in order to allow joints the ability to move freely in their ROM. The main ones for lifts are shoulders, knees, hips, elbows, and ankles.

If mobility is still difficult after muscle release techniques, then you may want to consider adding some actual mobility exercises that are necessary for the areas that need focus.

How To Foam Roll Properly >>

Dynamic Stretching

This type of stretching is active movement instead of static holds. You will be able to get your muscles warmed up and activated better through this method. Static stretching is okay to do at the start within short holds but holds over 10-15 seconds may possibly signal your muscles to relax as opposed to activating.

Effective bodyweight dynamic stretches can be single-leg raises, pendulum swings, arm circles, and even the cat-cow warm up. Exercises such as these assist with the muscle warm-up phase and offer activation also, but better activation for stabilizer muscles occur when resistance bands are used.

Muscle Activation

The muscle activation phase is often executed wrong when the resistance bands come out. Due to their elasticity, many often do quick movements and allow the band to slingshot back into position. Short, quick movements with little control would be more dynamic stretch opposed to muscle activation.

Controlling your movements with resistance bands and fighting against the pull help the stabilizer muscles to activate. You can understand this need for activation by understanding how prime movers work.

Prime movers are essentially your larger muscle groups working to move the weight during an exercise such as the quads and glutes for back squats. The muscles supporting these prime movers with proper movement patterns and control are the stabilizer muscles. These muscle groups supporting the prime for squats would be hamstrings and calves, amongst others.

Together they create the force necessary to move weight effectively. However, during warm-up some smaller stabilizers may not be activated, such as the gluteus medius, which affects external hip rotation.

This could be one reason for knee caving since the knees cannot be kept in alignment during the squat. The following resistance band exercises help activate the gluteus medius and strengthen it as well.

Resistance Band Exercises for Muscle Activation:

  • Clamshells
    • Lay on your side and loop a hip circle or resistance band around your legs, near your knees. Keep both knees bent about 90 degrees, then simply raise and lower your top leg, while keeping your lower leg pressed into the floor. Make sure to work both sides equally.
  • Side-Lying Hip Abduction
    • Lay on your side and loop a hip circle or resistance band around your legs, anywhere between your ankles and knees. Then simply raise and lower your top leg. Make sure to work both sides equally.
  • Monster Walks
    • Stand with both feet inside a hip circle or resistance band, and pull it up anywhere between knee and mid-thigh height. Then walk around both forwards and backward, taking big steps and maintaining constant tension on the band.
  • Lateral Walks
    • Stand with both feet inside a hip circle or resistance band, to where there is light tension. Squat down and walk laterally (side to side) while maintaining constant tension on the band.

The hip circle bands work best for these exercises since they maintain their circular shape and easily slid up and down where needed. Victorem Gear has some quality products in sets to choose from. You can go here to check them out.

Learn more with our complete How To Warm-Up Guide >>


Warming Up is Simple and Effective

Warm-up phases seem like they would take an hour. But in reality, they should only take 20 minutes if you are moving through the phases and not allowing distractions to occur, i.e. conversations, phone use, etc.

Each phase has its own purpose and importance to the workout that follows. And some do choose to skip them after figuring out what works best for them. You should do the same and develop your own style of warming up after you get into the rhythm of using this concept.

The biggest thing is to not rush the movements while muscles are still “cold” leading to injury. Going straight into the activation phase with expectations to lift immediately may result in muscle strain or other injuries. Have patience and do everything correctly.

Learn more with our complete How To Warm-Up Guide >>

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