This cause of injury is so common and yet most people are completely blind to it.
You see most people are not flexibility-wise balanced. One side of the body is usually tighter than the other. This happens due to many causes:
- Individual’s occupation,
- location where tension is carried,
- effect of injuries
- and many other reasons.
This imbalance if not focused on and taken into consideration, when training can be a reason why people get injured in the first place and then frequently re-injured.
There are three main ways how bilateral flexibility imbalance causes injury. Any of them may apply to you or perhaps all three.
- Playing catch up to the other side.
Imagine you are stretching your hamstrings. You did your left leg and then your right leg. Regardless of what stretching techniques you employ.
This can be Passive Stretching, Zaichik Stretching Technique, PNF, yoga, pilates it does not matter. You notice that you can comfortably hold your left foot with your hands. The right foot however you have to struggle to wrap your fingers around.
Without realizing what are doing, you begin to pull your body forward, while stretching the tighter side. You want to have the same flexibility on your right (less flexible) side as you have on your left. However “forceful flexibility balancing” is not a good idea.
Because of my specialization in flexibility, I have observed more students stretching than most people. After originally observing this phenomenon I would ask people; “Why are you pulling so hard into the stretch on this side?” the response: “Because my sides are not even and I want this to side to be as flexible as the other side”.
So by now you know what I am getting at here. The less flexible side will eventually get injured from over stretching. On a surface it seems that it will catch up, if you just stretch it more. After all you love your right and left side the same. You want to help the “tight” side. Truth is, you are not helping it.
Let it progress at it’s own pace. It will catch up, but it won’t catch up instantaneously, right there and then (because you decided that it should) and be “happy” about it.
You can over stretch it a few times and make it look like both sides are even, but eventually it will give.
You are probably asking, “so I should just accept that one side will be more flexible than the other”. The answer is no, your tight side will get there, but later.
- Bilateral exercise, without taking left-right difference into consideration.
Since we are talking about hamstrings lets stay with this muscle group for the second example. Imagine You perform a stiff legged dead lift. (This is an exercise where bending forward at the hips standing and coming back up against resistance.)
Your left hamstrings is more flexible. Right one is tighter. The end range should be dictated by the comfort of the right hamstring. If it’s not, the tighter muscle will get strained.
The mistake people make is to try to move into the range of the more flexible side. This puts the muscles of the tighter leg into the harms way. (P.S. The body can compensate and instead of the hamstrings the back can get injured).
Either do the exercises unilaterally and respect each sides range of motion or if doing bilaterally, stop when the tighter side is telling you to stop.
- Even skill execution expectation. This one is a combination of 1 and 2.
You do a skill or an exercise and not a stretch, but you do a unilateral skill, and try to forcefully even out the sides.
An example of the technique this mistake can be made in is Developpe forward or to the side in Dance or Front Kick in Martial arts.
Staying with previous example. Your left hamstrings is more flexible. Right one is tighter. The left foot comes up over your head when doing a developpe or a front kick, but the right leg only to your head level. Do you respect the difference? Unfortunately, most students and even teachers do not. The try to force the right side to do what the left side is doing.
Accept the imbalance and let each side progress at it’s own pace.
- Don’t be concerned about a slow progress of one side or the other. It only makes sense that the tighter side will be improving somewhat behind the more flexible side.
- Even if the rate of progress is the same, the flexible side will always lead and get to the goal faster.
- Forcing the shorter side to catch up will only cause injury, which will slow down the progress. Listen to your body and your attentiveness will be handsomely rewarded.
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This program contains 27 videos focusing on:
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