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A Deeper Look Into Lower Body Muscle Imbalances

Updated on January 14, 2020
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Bing Xi is a Rehab Essentials certified personal trainer who helped clients overcome muscle imbalances.

What is a Lower Body Muscle Imbalance?

Muscle imbalance is a deviation of the actual relative activity levels from the optimal relative activity levels of the involved muscles, causing compensations, inhibition of muscles and inefficiency in movements. At the lower body, this imbalance can be at the hips, knees or shins. Depending on the severity, this can spread and cause more imbalances, increase injury risks, cause poor posture and contribute to chronic pain, especially to the lower back region. It is common for everyone to have some form of these imbalances, which tend to be more stubborn than upper body ones since day to day activities would reinforce them.

To illustrate a muscle imbalance simplistically, imagine a rod being pivoted on one end with two strings attached to the rod on the other end. The strings' tension are pulling the rod to pivot in opposite directions. Both strings need to have certain tension in them to stabilize the rod either when stationary or when pivoting in either direction, in different positions and speeds, depending on the rod's weight, center of gravity, position and properties of the pivot. If either string does not have the ability to withstand certain amount of tension, the rod would be unstable under certain circumstances. That would lead to jerky and inefficient movements of the rod as well as wear and tear on the the rod, pivot and the strings.

The rod in the previous paragraph can be someone's lower limb while the two strings can be two different muscles attached to the limb that facilitate movements of the limb. This would lead to inefficient movements of the lower limb, instability of the joints and greater risks of injury. To minimize these, it is important to strengthen both muscles to enable them to take more tension and also to be optimally activated relatively to one another in order not for one to be overly tensed up compared to the other.

Pivoting wooden rod


Concerns of a big Lower Body Muscle Imbalance

On top of the compensations that can spread to other body parts, leading to more imbalances, potentially causing a vicious cycle of injuries and chronic pain like for all muscle imbalances, lower body ones tend to be more persistent due to the lack of fine motor control over lower limbs compared to the upper limbs.

Common Lower Body Muscle Imbalances

In general, the common muscle imbalances involve over-active "pro-gravity" muscles and under-active "anti-gravity" muscles. Some of these "pro-gravity" and "anti-gravity" muscles are commonly targeted muscles in physiotherapy and rehabilitation in both recuperation and prevention from injuries.

To illustrate "pro-gravity" and "anti-gravity", imagine someone standing tall, weight evenly distributed on both feet, arms hanging loose by the side, head, chest and hips facing the front squarely. If this guy were to lose consciousness without any warning, he would collapse with certain movement patterns. These patterns are the common muscle imbalances with involved shortened muscles being "pro-gravity" while the lengthened muscles being "anti-gravity". Since tensing a muscle usually involves shortening it while relaxing a muscle usually involve lengthening it, "pro-gravity" muscles are usually over-activated while "anti-gravity" muscles are usually under-activated. These terms "pro-gravity" and "anti-gravity" are used because muscles that contributes to the movement patterns in favor of gravity are considered "pro-gravity" while those that oppose these movement patterns are considered "anti-gravity".

Some of the commonly targeted "pro-gravity" muscles in the lower body include TFL and adductors, causing the knees to cave inwards in the event of someone losing consciousness. Some commonly targeted "anti-gravity" muscles include glutes max/med, keeping someone in a standing still position and overcoming the caving in of knees.

Commonly targeted Lower Body Muscles


List of common Lower Body Muscle Imbalances

From my learnings in school, Rehab Essentials and Genesis Academy materials, as well as my experience as a coach in Genesis Performance Center (where the Genesis Academy materials are provided), I have come across a number of muscle imbalances spanning across the whole body from top to toes, including the lower body, at the hips, knees and shins.

At the hips, the imbalances can occur at the abductors, extensors, flexors and in the manner of multi-directions.

At the abductors, a muscle imbalance revolves around TFL, ITB, piriformis, glutes med and glutes max.

At the extensors, a muscle imbalance revolves around hamstrings, adductors magnus, gastrocnemius and glutes max.

At the flexors, a muscle imbalance revolves around TFL, iliacus and psoas.

In the manner of multi-directions, a muscle imbalance revolves around adductors and abductors.

At the knees, the imbalances can occur in the manners of lateral vs medial and posterior vs anterior.

In the manner of lateral vs medial, a muscle imbalance revolves around ITB, rectus femoris, vastus lateralis and vastus medialis oblique (VMO).

In the manner of posterior vs anterior, a muscle imbalance revolves around hamstrings and quadriceps.

At the shins, the imbalances can occur in the manner of ankle pronation vs supination, at the plantar flexors and in the manner of tibial external vs internal rotation.

In the manner of ankle pronation vs supination, a muscle imbalance revolves around peroneals, tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorium brevis.

At the plantar flexors, a muscle imbalance revolves around gastrocnemius and soleus.

In the manner of tibial external vs internal rotation, a muscle imbalance revolves around peroneals, gastro lateralis, popliteus and gastro medialis.

Lower Body Muscle Imbalances overview

Lateral vs Medial
Ankle Pronation vs Supination
Posterior vs Anterior
Plantar flexors
Tibial External vs Internal rotation

Lower Body Muscle Imbalances


Hips Muscle Imbalances overview

Adductors magnus
Glutes med
Glutes max
Glutes max

Hips Muscle Imbalances


Knees Muscle Imbalances overview

Lateral vs Medial
Posterior vs Anterior
Rectus femoris
Vastus lateralis
Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO)

Knees Muscle Imbalances


Shins Muscle Imbalances overview

Ankle Pronation vs Supination
Plantar flexors
Tibial external vs internal rotation
Tibialis posterior
Gastro Lateralis
Flexor hallucis longus
Flexor digitorium brevis
Gastro Medialis

Shins Muscle Imbalances



To conclude, everyone has very high chances of having muscle imbalances due to the nature of us gravitating towards certain movement patterns. Most of the issues faced by everyone having muscle imbalances would be as mild as the daily minor aches and pains. However, in the event of sever cases, someone can get injured or trapped in a chronic pain vicious cycle.

Specifically for lower body imbalances, the nature of lack of fine motor control in the lower limb and their extensive use in daily movement makes them persistent. Among the three different regions of lower body muscle imbalances, hips, knees and shins, which region do you think you have the most imbalances? Share with me in the comments below!

Pain relief by managing Lower Body Muscle Imbalances

I do work closely with individuals to relief chronic and recurring pain by managing lower body muscle imbalances as part of a holistic pain solution illustrated in my other article "Permanent Relief From Recurring Pain".

Apart from that, I also work on managing muscle imbalances, illustrated in my other article "A Deeper Look Into Muscle Imbalances".

Contact me for more information if you are looking to manage muscle imbalances or holistically overcome ongoing pain!

© 2019 Bing Xi


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