Q&A with Coach: How do I Avoid Muscle Imbalances?

Do you have muscle imbalances? Spoiler alert: of course you do!

In fact, we all do.

Muscle Imbalance

Nobody is perfectly symmetrical. We may have a dominant leg, strike the ground harder with one foot, pronate more with one leg, or lean slightly to one particular side. It’s normal – it’s human.

And it doesn’t necessarily mean your running career is over, certain to be plagued by chronic injuries. Muscle imbalances only cause significant problems when they’re not managed properly.

To avoid – and even correct – a serious muscle imbalance requires a multi-pronged approach. Just like running injuries, imbalances are often caused by several factors acting at the same time rather than just one (just like my recent Achilles injury).

There’s no single magic bullet cure. Instead, there’s multiple solutions that should all be used.

Muscle Imbalances: Training, Form, and Strength

Those solutions are the answer to a great question I received from Megan:

I’m rebuilding my fitness after an injury but I notice that my left leg is often much more sore after runs than my right. This makes me think that my left leg is working harder than my right. Do you have any advice on how to correct a muscle imbalance?

I answered Megan’s question with a new video:

Click to Tweet: Check out this video on how runners can avoid muscle imbalances!

Don’t want to watch my beautiful face? I’m hurt, but no worries. Here are the video notes:

  • Avoid the road’s camber – or slope – by switching sides often, finding a more level road, or getting on a sidewalk (better yet, do some trail running!)
  • The track is for faster workouts, not distance runs where the repetitive turns in the same direction can easily cause imbalances
  • Improve your running form by increasing your cadence (or step rate) to at least 170 steps per minute, running tall to have better posture, and ensuring you land with your feet underneath your body instead of “reaching out” in front of you and over-striding
  • Single-leg strength exercises can improve strength, coordination, and balance in your weaker leg. Focus on exercises like pistol squats, hip thrusts, step-ups, and lunges.
  • All of these training subjects are covered in more detailed in Injury Prevention for Runners.

Remember, don’t despair if you notice a strength asymmetry between your right and left leg. Nobody is symmetrical!

Here’s more detail to help you develop better single-leg strength:

As long as you avoid surfaces that promote imbalances, improve your running form and posture, and do consistent single-leg strength exercises you likely won’t have any major issues with muscle imbalances.

Leave a comment: 

  • What imbalances have you noticed with your own body?
  • How have you corrected them?
  • Are you struggling with a specific type of imbalance that you can’t fix?

I’ll do my best to answer every question left in the comments.

Run strong!

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