It’s good to be strong. But most of us don’t think about or make a special effort to ensure that muscles that perform opposing functions are comparably strong.
Why is that important?
Because every joint and your spine are constructed to stabilize and withstand optimal force only when the musculature surrounding the joint supports it equally from each direction that force can be applied. Balance means better control, more effective and functionally useful strength and, perhaps most importantly, significantly reduced risk of injury.
Here’s a good series of exercise load ratios I use to move clients toward that optimal balance:
Bench Press (chest) = Lat Pull (upper back) – My base weight for both is 120 lbs. I use 2 x 20# dumbbells for reverse lunges for single-legged dead lifts and for reverse lunges. Added to the percentage of my body weight that serves as load in the lift, this approximates an upper/lower compound (multi-joint) balance.
Shoulder Press = 2x Triceps Extension – Since shoulder press recruits triceps as assisting muscles and a single dumbbell triceps extension isolates the muscle effectively. I use a 30# db for the tri ext and two 30’s for shoulder press.
Triceps > Biceps – This one is tricky and depends on the exercise. When using a cable push-down for triceps, I use 50#. For the biceps cable curl I use 40#. But with dumbbells it’s nearly impossible to avoid floating the elbows forward slightly, which heavily recruits the upper chest and allows the forearm bones to provide structural support and moderately relieve the biceps. So I use 20’s for that one. If I am able to use extremely strict form, 15’s will do the job.
So the bottom line is that pushing and pulling muscles should be comparably strong, and the upper and lower body should be close in strength as well.
If you need additional guidance to strike this balance, work with a personal trainer who prioritizes balance in his or her philosophical approach.
Learn more about how to get and stay in great shape? Contact Dan at Tri Valley Trainer