Treatment Options: Overtraining/Muscular Imbalances – Part III

The following article appeared in the June 1997 issue of Clean Power:

My last two articles addressed problems that most powerlifters and strength athletes deal with quite often: muscular imbalances and overtraining. This article will address various treatment options and ways to fix these burdensome problems.

The most obvious way to fix muscular imbalances is to avoid an imbalance. This is often easier said than done. Various occupations require one to do the same task every day and then go to the gym and train. Sometimes the activity in the gym mimics the work activity and adds to the imbalance. One must be aware of this possibility and help avoid it by selecting exercises that are opposite these activities so the athlete properly trains all the muscular tissues surrounding a joint. This applies to all imbalances, whether they are created partly by the job and training or solely by training.

How does one know when they have a muscular imbalance? Several ways to tell are: 1) Pain; 2)Loss of range of motion or flexibility on one side of the joint and normal or greater range of motion on the other side (i.e. quads vs. hamstrings); 3)Loss of strength with various exercises that emphasize using one side of the joint; and 4)Postural changes to the area in question (i.e. as I stated two articles, the “bencher” posture – rounded shoulders, etc.).

When you think you have a muscular imbalance, you can do several things. First, acknowledge the problem exists. Second, seek out a good book on stretching (a book called “AutoStretching” is a good book – check your local college bookstore) and begin stretching those problem areas, making sure you use common sense and proper body mechanics and positioning. Third, seek some advice from a certified personal trainer/strength and conditioning specialist or a health professional knowledgeable about strength training and what exercises would be appropriate to help correct this imbalance. Fourth, seek a qualified health professional trained in sports medicine and knowledgeable about strength training for treatment of your problem if it continues to persist after doing the above. Even if you are not having pain yet, but recognize that you have a problem, seek out a professional before the problem becomes severe enough that it causes you to stop training. Most of these problems can be treated with little or no cessation of training if caught early enough.

Several specific treatments are very effective at fixing muscular imbalances and the problems they can cause. They are: chiropractic manipulation; stretching (properly); use of ice/heat at different stages of fixing the problem; Active Release Technique (a technique that incorporates neuromuscular reeducation and myofascial release that is extremely effective at removing scar tissue and adhesions in the soft tissues); various forms of physiotherapy such as ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, interferential, Russian stimulation, etc.; use of proteolytic enzymes have been proven by research to help decrease inflammation without the side effects of other anti-inflammatory medications.

The last article addressed overtraining and its possible causes. With each of those causes I suggested various ways of fixing them. Quite often the manifestations of overtraining are imbalances and/or neuromuscloskeletal problems that cause pain, etc. and the above treatment options will help fix these problems.

One treatment option that I have not talked about yet is nutrition. Not only is proper nutrition important while you are training, but it is extremely important when you are recovering from an injury or problem. The neuromuscloskeletal system needs proper nutrition to help heal injuries. I get a lot of questions from athletes and patients regarding the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance). What one must remember is the RDA was developed for the average person, not the athlete in mind. The body of an athlete requires more complete nutrition than the RDA recommends, especially when training intensely, such as in preparing for a competition. When healing from an injury, the amount of various nutrients needed increases. Keep this in mind when you are training and if you are recovering from an injury. Ask your health professional what she/he recommends for you with regards to extra nutrients you may need to help in your training and/or recovery.

In the next few issues I will continue this discussion of neuromuscloskeletal problems and how they affect the powerlifter by discussing upper and lower cross syndromes.

Please send your questions for the Sports Medicine Committee to:

Dr. Michael Hartle
3835 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Ft. Wayne, IN, 46804.

If you would like a personal response, please send a SASE with $2.00 to cover additional postage and other expenses. I also welcome your comments on the committee/column.