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5 Muscle Imbalances Every Woman Has
We're always searching for optimal balance, whether it's having a good hair day (not frizzy but not totally flat) or having the perfect glass (or two) of wine (happy but without a hangover). It turns out that same "Goldilocks" concept rings true with your muscles. "Nearly all women have some muscle imbalances," says Jacque Rockford, an ACE exercise physiologist in San Diego. Here are the five most common scrawny-vs.-strong areas for women, according to Rockford and Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University—and how you can find a happy fitness medium.
Quads > Hamstrings
When you add up how long you spend sitting at your desk, driving, or Netflix bingeing, you start to understand the hamstring issue. "Prolonged sitting, especially in combination with hamstrings that are stressed by walking and running, means that your quads must take over the majority of movements," Olson says. Think of that one-two punch fit females are all too guilty of (sneaking in a quick 5K training run, promptly followed by an evening on the couch live tweeting The Bachelor), and you can see why this is one of the most frequent muscle maladies. Tack on high heel use, which often leads to tight hammies over time, and you can practically hear those leg muscles crying inside.
The fix: Walk, jog, or run uphill to engage the hamstrings more than the quads. Stretch after every workout and during the day to relieve stiffness.
Triceps > Biceps
"Women tend to focus more on the 'flab' on the back of upper arms instead of using heavier weights to challenge the biceps," Olson says. While tank top season tris are an enviable feature, many of the lifting motions we do each day, from purses to kids to laptops, benefit from buffing up the biceps.
The fix: Try this top toner three times a week, and be sure to stretch after every workout and during the day to relieve stiffness.
Chest > Back
Weak shoulders and core muscles force the chest and glutes to brace the body and maintain proper posture, Olson says. You may not notice this front vs. back difference right away, but consider a push-up (chest) vs. a pull-up (back). One is clearly more doable than the other, right? Plus, in our slouchy text-type-commute culture, the back is engaged less than ever.
The fix: Incorporate this back-boosting routine into your fitness plan three times a week. Focus on sitting and standing with good posture, reminding yourself often to keep shoulders rolled back and down. Stretch after every workout and during the day to relieve stiffness. (Sensing a theme here?)
Left side > Right side (or vice versa)
Whether the discrepancy is caused by a previous injury or stiff muscles, one side of the body is usually slightly stronger than the other. Over time, this can lead to posture issues, pain and even more injuries, so it's best to be as in sync as possible.
The fix: Incorporate strength exercises that target one side at a time into each workout—think alternating forward lunges or single-arm rows. Target tight areas with a foam roller and/or lacrosse ball and stretch after every workout and during the day to relieve stiffness.
Outer muscles (chest, neck, calves, shins, quadriceps) > Core
Have you ever had lower back aches? Or shaky balance? A weak core, a symptom exhibited by 80 percent of women (according to Olson), is likely the cause. The more external muscles are forced to take over for the abs and back.
The fix: Brace the abs by doing faceup leg holds (think of isolating your muscles while lying on the floor and raising heels—legs straightened—so you're shaped like a banana). Then give these 8 surprising core moves a go. Oh yes, and stretch after every workout and during the day to relieve stiffness.