Exercises to Fix Common Muscular Imbalances

By Cassandra Johnson | Feb. 03, 2015, 6:18 p.m. (ET)
This article originally appeared in the 2014 winter issue of USA Triathlon Magazine.

The offseason is the perfect time for multisport athletes to switch up workout routines and focus on building functional strength.

To target common areas of weakness, including the core, glutes, hips and hamstrings, United States Olympic Committee Sport Physiologist Eric Lawson recommends seven key exercises to add to your weekly routine — three times a week during the offseason and once a week in-season.

Each exercise works to fix unilateral leg deficits, correct other muscular imbalances and improve economy of movement.

Single-Leg Squat

HOW TO DO IT: Stand in front of a flat bench, feet shoulder-width apart, wearing a weighted vest (optional). Bend one leg backward and rest your toes against the bench. Lower your body by bending your standing leg until it is perpendicular to the floor. Do not let your knee extend past your toes. Exhale while returning to a standing position. Repeat for three sets of 8-12 reps per leg.

 

WHY DO IT: Unilateral exercise that activates the glutes and hamstrings.

 

single leg squat 

Single-Leg Abduction with Hip Extension

HOW TO DO IT: Lie face down on the ground with an exercise ball tight between your foot and the wall. Extend your leg and use glutes and hamstrings to raise the ball up the wall and back down again with a smooth range of motion. Keep upper body relaxed and head in neutral position. Repeat for 3 sets of 8 reps per leg.

WHY DO IT: Promotes activity in the glutes and external rotators of the hip.

single leg abduction with hip extension 

Swiss Ball Leg Curl

HOW TO DO IT: Lie with your back on the floor, heels flush on an exercise ball and hips lifted toward the ceiling. Keep head relaxed, and hips and shoulders square. Bridge your hips and roll the ball in with your feet. Push the ball back out to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

 

WHY DO IT: Intensive hamstring exercise that also works the core and glutes.

swiss ball leg curl 

Medicine Ball Thigh Block Throw

HOW TO DO IT: Stand across from a coach or training partner who will toss a medicine ball toward you. Strike the ball mid-thigh with an explosive, fluid movement. Keep your feet dorsiflexed, head still and chin neutral. Activate core and avoid twisting or extraneous motion.  Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

 

WHY DO IT: Improves the neural patterns of running while working on proprioception, balance and the economy of movement.

 

medicine ball thigh block throw 

 

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Reach

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with medicine ball in hands and one knee elevated to a 90-degree angle. Reach your arms out in front of you and extend the lifted leg so it is straight back. Hold the position for a couple seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 8-12 reps per side.

WHY DO IT: Activates the hamstrings and works on balance and proprioception. Also includes important reach and extension to help with your swim.

single leg romanian deadlift with reach 

Bosu Ball Swimmer

HOW TO DO IT: Lie face down on a Bosu trainer with your pelvis and lower abdomen centered on the dome. After you find your balance, lift your legs up, squeeze your glutes and extend your arms forward (for a variation of this exercise, bring elbows to 90 degrees as pictured). Begin to flutter kick your legs and move arms up and down at the same pace. Keep your core stable and head in a neutral position. Maintain exercise for 20-35 seconds and repeat for three sets.

WHY DO IT: Great dryland swimming exercise that works back extension and activates the glutes and hamstrings.

bosu ball swimmer 

Band Resistance Step Up

HOW TO DO IT: Attach resistance band around waist. Stand with feet parallel about hip-width apart, shoulders back, chin neutral and chest out. Step up to place your leading foot on the platform, while pushing off with the trailing leg. Raise your body onto the platform and raise your trailing leg so your thigh is parallel with the ground in thigh block position, driving arms as you step. Step down and repeat for 3 sets of 8 reps per leg. For progression, wear a weighted vest.

 

WHY DO IT: Total body exercise designed to improve running economy by making you stronger.

 

band resistance step up 

Thank you elite triathletes Erin Jones and Luke Farkas for demonstrating these exercises at the United States Olympic Training Center.

 

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.