Unilateral Leg Training, Part 4: Correcting the Imbalances
The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of muscles in your body. There are those which originate from your head (known as central nervous system) and those which originate from other parts of your body (known as peripheral nervous system). Central nervous system muscles control movement while peripheral nerve controls movement through involuntary actions such as reflexes or motor skills.
Central Nervous System Muscles
Your brain sends signals to your spinal cord which then send messages to your nerves. These signals cause the muscles in your arms and legs to contract when you push, pull or lift objects. Your feet and hands have these same kinds of muscles which allow you to walk and run around. They also help you grasp things with both hands.
If they were not working properly, walking would be very difficult because it requires coordination between all four limbs.
In most cases, your central nervous system muscles are responsible for controlling balance. When one of them contracts, the other relaxes causing you to fall over if you try to stand up straight. For example, when someone falls down after falling off a chair or table, their legs will often go into spasm and they may even lose consciousness due to the lack of oxygen in their blood stream. In some cases, it takes several minutes before they regain consciousness.
Peripheral Nervous System Muscles
These muscles are located in your arms and legs. They also control movement but on a much more local level than the central nervous system. When these muscles contract, you can move your hands or feet a specific direction. While we don’t normally think about it, peripheral nervous system muscles contract and relax hundreds of times per minute whenever you perform any physical activity.
However, you are rarely conscious of this movement.
Muscle Imbalance and Running
You might be wondering how muscle imbalance relates to running. Well, being a runner who runs tens of miles per week or more, you may have experienced tightness in one leg while the other seems to feel slightly weaker. This is common among runners and typically goes away after taking a rest day or two, but there are ways to prevent it from ever happening again.
Quadriceps and Hamstring Muscle Imbalance
Your thighs are made up of several muscles including the quads, hamstrings, and calves. They all work together to help your legs support your entire body’s weight as you run. If one set is significantly stronger or weaker than the other, it can lead to a muscle imbalance. When this happens, it puts additional stress on your knee and hip joints which can lead to pain and injuries over time.
Muscle Imbalance and Walking
Tight hip flexors can lead to muscle imbalance in the lower body. When you have tight hip flexors, it puts additional stress on the rest of your muscles because they are forced to work harder to make up for the lack of flexibility in the hip flexors. This can result in pain and injuries in your knees, back, and legs.
The numbness you feel in your foot is most likely caused by a pinched nerve. This is common among people who sit at a desk all day and then go straight to working out. Sitting in the same position for extended periods of time causes the hip flexors to tighten up and when you go to stand up or walk, all of the blood rushes to your hip flexors which causes them to expand and put pressure on the sciatic nerve. The pressure of the sciatic nerve on the spinal cord can cause numbness and tingling in the feet.
The good news is, there are ways to prevent these kinds of issues from ever occurring and they start before you even get dressed in your workout clothes.
Ways to Prevent Muscle Imbalance
Perform a dynamic warm-up before you run. A good example of a dynamic warm-up for runners can be found here: Road Runners Warm Up. Watch the video or follow the steps listed below. This will get your muscles moving and help prevent muscle imbalances from occurring.
Walk for 5 minutes before you run. This will cause your hip flexors to loosen up a bit and the warm-up will give them time to expand before you put pressure on them while running.
Perform hip flexor stretches after running or another activity. You can perform these stretches at the beginning of your workout if you’d like, but it’s not necessary.
Sources & references used in this article:
Rationale and clinical techniques for anterior cruciate ligament injury prevention among female athletes by GD Myer, KR Ford, TE Hewett – Journal of athletic training, 2004 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Evaluation of muscular imbalance by V Janda, C Frank, C Liebenson – Rehabilitation of the spine: a …, 1996 – books.google.com
A comparison of isokinetic and functional methods of assessing bilateral strength imbalance by PA Jones, TM Bampouras – The Journal of Strength & …, 2010 – cdn.journals.lww.com