Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Training in Dysfunction

When you strength train - or endurance train - or skill train - when you have a functional imbalance or a dysfunctional, what happens?

By a functional imbalance, I mean either one stronger muscle is covering for a weak one, or a side-to-side imbalance (strong left arm, weaker right, or a similar case). By a dysfunction I mean some specific issue resulting from the above or from other causes - rounded shoulders, pronated feet, cocked hips, etc.

(Please note these are my own definitions for purposes of this post, not widely accepted definitions of these terms)

So when you train while in this state, are you correcting the problem or are you training in dysfunction?

The question is simply that - if your chest is weak but your shoulders are strong and you bench press, does the chest "catch up" or does it continue to push less than its fair share of the load with each rep? If you've got a side to side imbalance and you squat, do the sides "even out" or do they keep their (for example) 40/60 split, just at progressive loads?

With a dysfunction, the idea is that if your calf is locked up and your knee is handling all side-to-side movement that your ankle should handle, you need to free it up. If not, when you train side-to-side movement you're cementing in that knee substitution. If the knee can't handle the cumulative stress, it will go. If you've got "sleeping" glutes due to sitting all day and do a deadlift, do they "wake up" and handle the load or offload it on your back?

The idea here is that practice makes permanent. Strength training over a dysfunction will simply reinforce that dysfunction. You'll make a stronger, but still incorrectly working, set of muscles and groove an incorrect movement pattern.

In Part II I'll discuss some ideas about how to deal with this.

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