A balanced strength program balances push and pull, upper and lower body body, and core movements.
~ By Coach Lindsay Leigh
There is more to an effective strength program than picking things up and putting them down. As you develop your strength training routine, you want to ensure that you arrange movements within a workout, and across different workouts, so that you balance different types of movements and muscle groups.
You have several options to divide up your routine. For example, you can split exercises between push or pull movements, or you can focus on lower body one day, and upper body another day. In addition to these types of splits, we also want to make sure to hit the different muscle groups evenly.
This post provides 3 actionable tips to create balance and symmetry in your strength program, which in turn better prevents injury.
Push and Pull Movements
Let’s start with push movements vs. pull movements.
Push movements generally target the muscles in the front of your body and include any movement where you’re pushing. Exercises in this category may include bench press, shoulder press, tricep extension, leg press, leg extension, squat, calf raise, and so on.
Pull movements generally include the muscles in the back of your body and include movements like lat pull down, pull ups, bicep curl, seated row, bent over row, upright row, leg curl, deadlift, back extensions, and so on.
In practice, you might include all push movements one day, and all push movements another day. Or if you’re looking for a total body workout, be sure to include the same amount of push movements as pull movements in your program, both upper and lower body. And, don’t forget to include core work with each (see tip #3).
Upper and Lower Body Balance
In my experience as a personal trainer, I’ve noticed some have a tendency to neglect lower body strength work, particularly those who want to focus on building upper body strength. You know: “Suns out, guns out.”
Some endurance athletes may think they can skip lower body since they’re hitting it hard with running and biking. As discussed in my article on why athletes need strength training, hitting the lower body can improve economy and support injury prevention.
Endurance athletes need to do the big movements like squats and deadlifts, but also the smaller movements like monster walks and clams to isolate the glutes, adductors and lateral stabilizer muscles that are often weaker than the dominant ones that propel us in forward motion for running and biking. Adding single leg work is also valuable for correcting imbalances.
Work The Core
Lastly, a well-balanced strength routine should target the core, which includes much more than just your abdominal muscles.
Some of my favorite core exercises include a weighted carry like a farmer’s walk and variations of plank and side plank extending one arm at a time, or one arm or one leg, since they train you to keep the core engaged and stable as your arms and legs are moving (like swimming or running or cycling).
I recommend that you save core movements for the last segment in your workout since the core is being engaged and worked in all the movements, such as squats, deadlifts, push ups, etc., and should be fresh for those to support the weighted movement.
A well-balanced strength program is part of the 1% details that will add up to 100% of your success come racing season. Let’s be strong, balanced, and unbreakable heading into the new season!
If you need additional assistance with your balanced strength training routine, we offer one-to-one personal strength sessions, delivered via Zoom. Strength coaching right from the safety and convenience of your own home! Our strength coaches will teach you how to make the most of your available time and equipment.
Or join our #NLECrew, and you can follow along with our weekly group strength workouts.