Gas Pedals and Brakes


Why Quality Movement Is Key for Health and Hotness

When seeking optimal health and hotness, it’s easy to neglect how important it is to maintain basic function of the body; you can move around, accomplish the physical tasks you choose, and not feel beat up all the time.

And this makes sense.  After all, for most people, if you’re able to get around during the day and you’re not in pain, there may not be a reason to think about your body much beyond that.  Furthermore, if you’re active and “fit,” you’ll generally presume all you need to do to stay that way is keep coming to the gym and hitting it.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and it may be a while before you feel the effects of creating movement by using your muscles in an unbalanced fashion.

A car is a good metaphor here.  If you’re never changing the oil, you don’t warm-up the car on cold days, and the alignment is off, you’ll probably be fine for a while.  Until you’re not.

Your body is not a car.  You can’t drive a loaner while it’s in the shop, and you can’t just purchase a new one. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)

This is why MFF is so strict about technique with our Ninjas.  This can be frustrating at first for new folks.  After all, sometimes someone is “fit” in the sense they can train hard without getting too winded.

But it doesn’t matter how strong an engine is if the wheels fall off the car.  And it’s not uncommon to see someone with major horse power who’s driving around with a flat tire.

This is part of why we like the Functional Movement Screen.  The FMS allows us a quick overview of what’s going on with someone’s movement quality.

To be clear, we’re not looking for perfection.  Your body is designed to deal with asymmetry.  If your goal is to get hot as fast as possible, we’re not going to make you do a bunch of unwanted technique work if you’re moving ok, because we want to get you to your fitness goals as fast as possible.

That said, if you unknowingly have a full-on flat tire… we got to fix that shit.  In the long run, it will be faster to take the time to take care of that situation, even if it means a momentary detour.  If we DON’T fix the situation, and we just start training hard, there’s a real good chance we’re gonna get hurt; the flat tire will get flatter and bad things will happen.

Common Imbalances

There are a few different ways that muscular imbalances can creep in and negatively affect our movement quality.

For instance, asymmetry is a big predictor of injury risk.

A classic example here is hip mobility.  If you have one hip that’s super mobile and one that’s super tight… DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!  This means it’s unlikely you’re doing any lower body exercise with any modicum of symmetry.  In time, you’re likely to get hurt since the force isn’t going to be distributed equally.

Many people also have less than ideal balance of muscles on the front and back of the body.  If you work at an office or spend time at a computer, odds are the front of your body is tight, and the back of your body is “locked long” and on the weaker side.

This is why so many folks have rounded shoulders; their chest is tight from sitting and typing, and their upper back is weak from slouching.

The hips will also see a similar scenario play out.  The front of the hips, called the hip flexors, get short from sitting all day.  Additionally, the glutes have stopped counterbalancing them.  Constant sitting has told your body the glutes can just go to sleep.   This imbalance leads to a tilted position of the pelvis.  At MFF, we call this position porn star.

Not a neutral alignment.

Once again, this means the body absorbs force in a less than ideal manner, so we’re again predisposed to potential injury, and in this case, low back pain.  Bummer!

Another common imbalance is a bit harder to visualize; an imbalance between muscles that predominantly stabilize you, and muscles that predominantly create movement.

Generally speaking, deep muscles that you can’t touch create stability; they RESIST movement.  These are often called “postural muscles,” because they’re designed to produce constant low levels of force to help your body stay in a good position and your joints to maintain a neutral alignment.

Conversely, the bigger muscles on the outside of your body that you can touch are generally powerful enough to CREATE movement.  With the support of the postural muscles, they allow your skeleton to get around and do cool shit like workout and have dance parties.

This is admittedly a gross generalization, but it does give us some insight.  Another way of thinking about this is that some muscles are mainly brakes, and some muscles are mainly gas pedals.

(I bet you know where I’m going with this…)

If the postural muscles stop doing their job for whatever reason, now the muscles that are supposed to make movement have to do the work of stabilizing you.  In other words, your brakes have gone to sleep, and your gas pedals are trying to be your brakes.


These big muscles designed for movement are now always on as they pitch in to keep your skeleton upright.  This means they not only start to get chronically tight and lose the ability to move as freely as they should, but they’re often overworked because they’re doing the job of the brake muscles.

Aw Shit.  I think I’m imbalanced, what the fuck do I do??

Worry not dear reader.

First of all, EVERYONE has some imbalances.  It’s really a matter of HOW imbalanced you are.  In a perfect world, you’ll have a good trainer assess you or take you through the FMS to see if there’s injury risk, but if you’re on your own, here are some things to help out!

1)      A lot of the issues we run into are because we spend time in less than ideal positions.  If you have to sit for work, set a timer and get up every 20 minutes, stand up tall, and raise your hands above your head so your muscles don’t start thinking you’re starting a new life as a sculpture.  The best posture is the one that keeps moving!

2)      Although it’s a bit of generic approach, there are a few areas where we see pretty consistent imbalances.  Focus on working your glutes and upper backs, and make sure you’re doing soft tissue work on your chest, lats, hips, and calves!

3)      If you’re already active, make sure there’s a balance between your movements.  If you only ever push (bench presses, push-ups, etc.), that’s gonna make your pushing muscles tighter.  Sadly these are the guys that are already short from modern living, like your chest and the front of your shoulders.  Make sure you balance this out by doing as much (and ideally 2 to 3 times more) pulling (rows, chin-ups, etc.).

At the end of the day, it IS important to train hard.  By no means are we recommending you start to obsess over every little imbalance in your body.  But by taking the time to be mindful of your body’s balance, you’ll be able to train harder, longer, and safer.

Addressing muscular imbalances is important even when all you care about is getting snatched. It is NOT easy to get your hottest body possible when you’re always injured.

What do you think?  Do you pay attention to these balance issues in your training?  If this is brand new information to you, is there anything I can help clarify about your particular situation?

Leave a comment below and let me know!


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