Written by: Melanie Talastas-Soriano BA-Kin, CAT(C), ISSA-CPT
Athletic Therapist, Personal Trainer
If you think about the daily activities that we do, it is not difficult to develop muscle imbalance. When you have muscle imbalance, there are muscle groups that are overworked versus muscle groups that are weak. Whether we spend more time carrying, lifting, sitting on a computer, playing sports, eating or sleeping we all tend to overwork the muscle groups in front of the body (i.e. Pecs, neck, abdominals, hip flexors, quads). Which means, the muscle groups on the back of the body (i.e. traps, rhomboids, lats, Q.L., glutes, hamstrings, calves) could be weak and often sore. Therefore, the body will develop muscle imbalance.
In this article, there are 10 simple exercises on how to strengthen weak muscles and how to stretch tight/sore muscles. We will focus on strength exercises using resistance band and body weight that will target upper body and lower body muscle groups.
Prior to starting upper body strengthening, you need to learn scapular stabilization (stabilize shoulder girdle). Stand up and do it with me. First, stand up straight, shoulders down. Then, squeeze your shoulder blades together then contract your lats pointing your armpit forward. If you’re feeling tall, you’re doing it right. Before starting any upper body workout, be sure that your shoulder is stabilized.
1. Lat pull-down with resistance band. Stabilize your scapula then pull down on the resistance band contracting the lower portion of your back (lats, lower fiber of the traps, triceps and rear delts). Complete this exercise 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
2. Standing row with resistance band. This exercise will focus on the upper back (mid fiber of traps, rhomboids, triceps, rear delts). Complete this exercise 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
3. Bridge: body weight, lying on your back, knees bent. Engage your core, then squeeze the glutes, hamstrings and low back to lift your torso up on a bridge position. This exercise targets the muscles mentioned. Hold the position for 20 seconds and repeat 10 times.
4. Shoulder external rotation using resistance band. Standing straight up, shoulder stabilized with elbow bent, pull the resistance band apart focusing on squeezing your external rotators. This exercise targets the external rotators (supraspinats, infraspinatus, teres minor muscles). Complete the exercise 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
5. Superman: bodyweight focusing on lower back, glutes and hamstring muscles. Lie on your stomach, tightening all the muscles, lift your arms and legs off the floor and squeeze low back, glutes and hamstrings. Hold the position for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
6. Hip flexor stretch: in a lunge position, bring one knee on the floor. Lean forward to feel the stretch on the hip flexor and hold that position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
7. Cobra stretch: lying on your stomach, prop your upper body using your hand keeping your hips and lower body on the floor. This stretches the abdominals and also help with low back pain relief. Hold the stretch 10 seconds hold and repeat 10 times.
8. Glute stretch (pigeon stretch). This stretch targets the glutes (glute max, piriformis, glute medius). Hold this stretch for 30 seconds repeat 3 times.
9. Hamstring stretch targets the hamstring muscles and calf muscles. You can use a belt and perform this stretch seated or lying down. Be sure your knee is straight enough to feel the stretch behind the knee. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
10. Pec stretch: you can use the door frame for the pectoralis stretch. This stretch will complement the upper body exercises mentioned above (exercise 1 and 2). Remember to stabilize your shoulder girdle first before the pec stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
You can break this program into upper body and lower body. If the exercises are too much at one time you can complete 1-5 for one day and alternate 6-10 on other days. These exercises focuses on full body so it will be safe to perform all of the exercises every other day. It is a combination of strength and stretches.
Remember, stabilize shoulder girdle before performing any upper body exercises. The same rule applies for lower body where you engage your core before performing any exercises or stretches.