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Structural Balance for Increased Health, Performance and Strength

This is not an article that will help you with fat loss. This article will discuss the importance of structural balance and how it can improve you performance and strength.

The Human Body

A structure is only as strong as its weakest link, and this principle also applies to the human body. Generally our daily lives require our bodies to be placed in positions that the body is not designed to sustain for any length of time. Such exposure and stresses to the body may result in a weakening or tightening of any given muscle, which over time will impact on health and performance.

When we see a baby or young child in the early stages of development we are amazed at their ability to crawl, climb and squat, progressing to the ability to walk. This is an amazing evolutionary process that occurs in a matter of months in the earlier years, why is this? It is what the human body is designed to do. It is, as we grow up through childhood that we loose many of these natural abilities to use our own body weight, to move and perform tasks, as the body is then required to sit in chairs and car seats for extended periods. Childhood is the perfect time for the human body to develop body weight strength, squat and climb, whilst remaining pliable. How many of you remember climbing up and jumping from trees, this is what we are designed to do, to move, and be active.

What is structural balance?

How many of you have a typical 9-5 job where you’re sat on a chair at a desk all day staring at a computer screen, or spend hours watching television? This presents many challenges for the body and places the body in a position for an extended period of time over the course of the day that may lead to poor posture, resulting in upper and lower back pain and misalignment of the pelvis. The human structure is designed to move around and be active, not sedimentary in a seated position.

For any action that the body undertakes repetitively for an extended period of time (years), which is unnatural, it may take up to 10,000hrs of work to reprogram the brain and muscle, thus enabling the body to function correctly and more efficiently. Due to the years of abuse humans expose their bodies to, it is impossible to be 100% structurally balanced, and even when corrective exercises have been prescribed, and after hours of coaching, the body will revert back to what it knows best to function optimally. The point behind structural balance over an extended period of time is to reduce the gap between any imbalances, and how the body has optimized itself to function based on your lifestyle.

During a consultation an assessment maybe conducted to determine any structural imbalances. An example of a structural imbalance; shoulders are rounded forward (protracted), this indicates that the posterior deltoids (rear of the shoulder), and scapular retractors, are overly stretched, and that the anterior deltoids (front of the shoulder), and pec minor (upper chest), are not actively working to align the bodies posture.

When prescribing and programming exercises to correct structural balance, a time frame of 3-15wks is recommended, based on specific and unique circumstances of the individual.

Structural Balance for Performance and Strength

If the human body as a structure is only as strong as its weakest link, it makes sense that if you are looking to improve your performance and strength in a given exercise, having a strong balanced structure is key to progress. For example, the back squat, if your knees cave or bow inward it may be indicative of a weak VMO (the tear drop shaped muscle above the knee joint). Incorporating specific exercises into your training programme on your squat day, aimed at strengthening this weak link or weak point of the movement will in the long term, be beneficial to healthy joints, and will lead to longer and progressive strength enhancements and reduce the potential for injury.

In Closing

There are a number of ways to incorporate structural balance exercises into your training. Firstly you could perform a phase of training that focuses on structural balance exercises, thus creating a solid foundation. An alternative method would be to program structural balance exercises into your routine, following the main lift.

What, why, how, and when you program structural balance exercises is dependent on a number of factors, which can only be determined through undergoing a structural balance assessment.

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