When we reach the point of exercise becoming a regular part of our lives, we often fall into a routine that mostly (or entirely) includes our favorite exercises. There’s nothing wrong with doing the exercises we enjoy most, but depending on what those exercises are, too much of a good thing could be a bad thing.
By doing the same exercises all the time, we are training the muscles used in those exercises to be very strong. This widens the strength gap between our frequently trained muscles and our seldom trained muscles. In the fitness world we call this a muscle imbalance.
Muscle imbalances are injury risks because we might perform a new movement we think we are ready for based on the strength we have developed in our frequently trained muscles. The problem is, if our under trained muscles aren’t ready for the new movement it could result in an injury.
For example, say we do squats three days/week with added weight. We should have really strong legs, capable of lifting some pretty heavy loads. We might assume that since we have strong legs that we can go out and play an aggressive game of tennis, but that could be a mistake if we haven’t been doing any other leg exercises that replicate the side to side movements we have to make in a tennis match.
Before you freak out and think you need to pick an exercise for every single muscle group, let me give you a much simpler trick to avoid muscle imbalances... Exercise in different planes of motion.
What are planes of motion? They are tools we use to describe the direction of our movement. There are three of them. The technical names are sagittal, frontal, and transverse, but it’s much easier to think of forward/back, side to side, and twist. Exercising in different planes of motion usually emphasizes different muscles of the body.
So think about the workouts you are doing now… Are you doing exercises that require movement forward/back? Side to side? Twisting? If you aren’t, consider adjusting your workouts to include at least one exercise for each plane of motion. This subtle change will go a long way in reducing your risk of injury.