Your body is smart: If you have a muscle imbalance (a common condition in which one muscle group overpowers another), an inbuilt protective mechanism will limit the dominant muscle’s ability to generate force. This temporarily helps prevent injuries. The downside: Stalled progress in your favourite lifts. What’s worse? Over time, muscles that are disproportionately stronger than others can pull bones and joints out of alignment, causing potentially dangerous and unattractive – postural changes as well as injuries, says sports adviser Dr Nicholas DiNubile. Use this plan to shift the balance of power and spark a total-body growth spurt.
1. Single-Leg Wall Sit
(works lower body; improves knee stabilisation)
Stand just less than 0.5m from a wall, facing away from it. Lean back so your hips, back, shoulders and head are against the wall. Tuck your left foot behind your right calf and extend your arms in front of you. Slowly lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Pause, then push yourself back up. Finish your repetitions, then repeat with your left leg.
Watch Your Form: If you have trouble maintaining your balance, try the move with both feet on the floor.
2. Tibalis Cable Pull
(works front of lower leg to help prevent shinsplints and stress fractures)
Sit on the floor facing a cable station with your right leg straight and a low-pulley cable handle looped around your right forefoot. (Tuck your left foot along the inside of your right thigh.) Without lifting your foot, flex your ankle to pull your toes towards you, against the cable’s resistance; then reverse the movement, resisting the cable as you go. That’s one repetition. Complete one set, then repeat with your left leg.
Watch Your Form: Don’t yank the cable towards you. Move your foot steadily for two to three seconds in each direction. Rotate them only at the end of each repetition.
3. Doorway Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back in a doorway. Lift one leg until it’s nearly vertical and place your heel against the doorframe; rest the other leg on the floor. Keeping the raised leg straight, slowly slide forward so that your heel rises along the wall. Continue inching forward until you feel a stretch along the back of your thigh. Gently push your heel against the wall for three seconds, relax your leg muscles, then slide farther forward and repeat. Switch positions to stretch the opposite hamstring.
Watch Your Form: Keep your upper body flat on the floor throughout the stretch.