Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Re-balancing the Upper Body

It’s been a while since I updated what’s been going on with my workouts. I’m still dealing with the repercussions of that one fateful day of ego.
(Well... I guess I should clarify that. No, I’m not completely ego-free on the other days)
But this one day, in January 2009, it was particularly strong. Apparently it was much stronger than my body, so to make a long story short, I wrecked my shoulder.
If you’d like to catch up or read an interesting story of an injury, ...



So now It has been two years and two months since that day. And, as I have said, I’m still paying the price.  I don’t have pain anymore, which is great. And my range of motion is excellent. In fact, I actually have more flexibility on the right side now than I did before I injured it. This is partially due to the different way I’ve been training and eating in the past couple of years. But also it’s largely because of the loss of muscle tissue in the area. The strength is also coming back gradually. 
So, I’m pretty much recovered as most people would describe it. But there is still a big part of my recovery that I haven’t addressed, yet. And that is regaining the incredible amount of muscle I lost as a result of the injury. 
Atrophy is the wasting away of muscle tissue.  It happens to us all, all the time.  This is why we have to stay active and/or exercise on a regular basis. If we don’t then our bodies will slowly decompose.  But while my shoulder was acutely injured, the atrophy was rapid and dramatic.  It was so quick and specific that, not only did I lose a significantly noticeable amount of muscle size and strength in my right arm, shoulder and chest, but it created a golf ball sized indentation in the center of my right pec.
Immediately after the injury I was completely absorbed by the pain, but once the pain had subsided, this lopsidedness became my biggest concern. I was embarrassed by it; I felt like a freak.  I had always been obsessed with proportion and symmetry in my body. 
So now, since I am getting stronger, I’m able to focus more attention to the task of re-strengthening and redeveloping my right side to catch up to the left side.  If I do push ups, for example, then it’s very difficult to emphasize the weaker side, and what happens is the strong side just does all the work and continues to get stronger.  My main concern now is how to re balance my right and left sides (chest, shoulder and upper arm).

So I have to devise ways to force myself to push more with the right arm and target the muscles of my right upper body.  I’m also trying to get the strength back to do my one-arm push-ups like I could do before the injury.  I can still do them on the left side, of course, but I don’t want to until I can do one on the right side again.  
I’ve put together a video of a few of the exercises I’ve been doing to help re balance.


So I was going along with these types of exercises for a while and then I began to notice another thing happening as a result of working with an unbalanced load like that. I have to brace my torso askew. In other words, in order to position myself, all the muscles of my core have to brace along a diagonal to emphasize or support the weight on only the right side. So I have to be careful that I don’t start to train another imbalance into my body in the torso. And I’ve been noticing how this is effecting the development of my abs.  I have to be careful not to let that get out of hand. 
These are the kinds of things I watch for in my clients as I train them, and it’s the reason I make videos of myself working out. I can observe myself from the outside and learn about my habits and coach myself to develop and improve. 

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