PT on the Net Research

Muscle Imbalance - Shoulders


Question:

I have developed a muscle imbalance in my shoulders. My lats are wide and rear delts are big, which forces my shoulders forward; therefore, I think my traps and my rhomboids are weak. I experience pain in my right front shoulder when I do presses. I realized I had the imbalance not too long ago, and now I consciously retract and depress my shoulders and periodically stretch my lats and chest and when I do exercises. Can you give me some info on whether I’m doing anything wrong to correct the imbalance or how long it will take to get better? I also wonder if I have to get my traps and rhomboids bigger to hold them back, or does my body just have to adapt to the new position because right now I’m in a caloric diet. I’m wondering if I have to eat more calories to build the traps and rhomboids to correct the imbalance, or will my body adapt over time to the new position?

Answer:

Thanks for your involved question! We’ll tackle this in stages...

"I EXPERIENCE PAIN IN MY RIGHT FRONT SHOULDER WHEN I DO PRESSES."

It is always wise to seek out proper medical attention when every joint pain is present (OCS, DC, PT, MD, etc.).

"SHOULDERS MY LATS ARE WIDE AND REAR DELTS ARE BIG WHICH FORCES MY SHOULDERS FORWARD THEREFORE I THINK MY TRAPS AND MY RHOMBOIDS ARE WEAK."

Concentrically speaking, muscles can only PULL their origin and insertion points together, therefor your rounded shoulders are most certainly NOT caused by any PUSHING forward of your rear shoulder musculature. There is a cereal postural distortion known as UPPER CROSSED (UC) posture. UC can be characterized by rounded (possibly elevated) shoulders and a forward head. UC and any cereal postural distortion pattern are generally considered to be caused by groups of muscles that are short/neurologically facilitated which CREATE the distortion, as well as their reciprocal muscle groups that are long/neurologically inhibited which ALLOW the distortion.

UPPER CROSSED POSTURE:

"I ALSO WONDER IF I HAVE TO GET MY TRAPS AND RHOMBOIDS BIGGER TO HOLD THEM BACK."

Please understand that muscle size does NOT necessarily equate to muscle strength and certainly not to neuromuscular function, please read on below...

"CAN YOU GIVE ME SOME INFO ON IF I'M DOING ANYTHING WRONG TO CORRECT THE IMBALANCE OR HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE TO GET BETTER?"

To really get to the root of the problem, we need to dig a little into some KINETIC CHAIN (KC) CONCEPTS. The KC basically refers to the body as one functional unit (bones, muscles, nerves, organs, etc.). All of these components must work in an optimal SYNERGY to achieve a high and injury-free performance Athletes (particularly those who train exclusively and chronically with heavy weights using traditional methods [bench press, leg press, etc.]), are highly subject to REPETITIVE STRESS. By this, I mean, repeating the same TYPES, RANGES, INTENSITIES, and SPEEDS of motion, chronically over and extended period of time (i.e. days/weeks/years/careers/etc.). Sports and exercise can be - and are - repetitive stress. When this repetitive stress goes unchecked and unaddressed, muscular imbalances can/will occur. These muscular imbalances can weaken the core, and eventually lead to faulty movement patterns. These faulty movement patterns over time can expose themselves as injury and pain (possibly shoulder impingement in your case). So, what's being stated is that ultimately you are probably dealing with a repetitive stress/flexibility based injury. Muscular imbalances occur by way of:

Have a fellow trainer conduct a basic KCA (kinetic chain assessment) on you using the below PTontheNET.com resources:

  1. POSTURAL PROFILE by Lenny Parracino
  2. MUSCULAR BALANCE OR FLEXIBILITY PROFILE by Lenny Parracino
  3. OVERHEAD SQUAT: TOTAL BODY PROFILE by Lenny Parracino
  4. A SIMPLE GUIDE TO STRETCHING by Lenny Parracino
  5. SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE TECHNIQUES by Alan Russell

(Alternatively check out the PTontheNET.com Reebok Movement Screens, which are a fantastic tool for assessing muscle balance, symmetry and movement.)

To begin a corrective stretching program for the muscles observed to be facilitated (see PTontheNET.com's Flexibility Library and take a STATIC modality to begin with), the above list of muscle groups will be helpful. Next begin a "corrective" strengthening program for the muscles observed to be inhibited. Here are a few possible beginning exercises: (see PTontheNETcom's Exercise Library for all of the below... and much more!).

It is important to understand that the postural problem you've been experiencing is something that developed over the course of a lot of time. If you expect results, you must attack your problem with the same, or greater, intensity as your usual training routines. There is no time limit that I can give you for your problem, especially without having seen you in person. The point here is that it would be very wise to include the above mentioned training concepts into your programming indefinitely to prevent future issues. Also... your question and the way it was presented, leads me to believe that it would be wise for you to begin a journey of "up-education" in your knowledge and skills as a "personal trainer." Please seek out and read the below references, as they will undoubtedly contribute in a positive manner to your own training - as well as your business.

References:

  1. Clark, MA. (2001). Integrated Training for the New Millennium. (NASM)
  2. Clark, MA. Russell AM. (2001). Optimum Performance Training for the Performance Enhancement Specialist. (NASM)
  3. Clark, MA. (2001). An Integrated Approach to Human Movement Science. (NASM)