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I'm 25 YO female and I am struggling with injuries and poor posture due to muscle imbalance - relatively weaker posterior chain. I used to train in Taekwondo many years back, then got sedentary and now I have been doing some strength and endurance work with weights since a year.

I have a feeling that my already overdeveloped quads and the muscles in upper body responsible for pushing action got emphasized in my flawed weight routine and led me to injury now.

But I want to be sure about it. Does taekwondo training by itself cause quad-hamstring and chest-upper back strength imbalance? If so, do instructors make you do exercises to overcome the imbalance or is the onus on the student?

My classes happened many years back and I don't recall any postural issue back then. Want to get back to it after my injuries heal but I also want to be informed on this matter to avoid further injuries...

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I would say that it depends on the instructor. If the instructor is knowledgeable, he/she should be incorporating well rounded exercises into your training. Not all instructors will have the fitness/exercise science background to know how to do that though, in which case, the onus would be left to the student. If you are concerned about preventing further injury, you may want to seek a professional opinion from a physical therapist or fitness trainer. –  harmlessdragon Dec 31 '13 at 13:16

3 Answers 3

This in why symmetry is exercising is so important, but another factor that most people don't know about and which even martial arts schools that teach it, don't emphasize it's importance enough, is that of tendon strength.

This is achieved through practicing your stances in a low position such as horse stance, front bow stances and other holding exercises.

Using weights once or twice a week is good, but also working with natural body weight exercises with and without resistance is also vital as you will gain more true strength and power, especially striking power, as well as the strength that improves balance.

Practicing your stances for at least 5 minutes a day on each side in the case of stances with uneven weight distribution and lowering your the amount of weight you are using, along with holding your weights for at least 5 seconds at the end of each set will increase your tendon strength, which equals greater joint strength and increase your balance & control. Also, make sure to balance exercises that you do for the front of the body, such as push ups or the bench press, with exercises for the back such as bent over rowing and reverse flys and others that work the back muscles, will help prevent any imbalances from occurring & give you the kind of strength that increases balance and control at the same time.

The primary exercises for developing the posterior chain are the Olympic lifts, squat, good-mornings,[Bent over rows] dead lifts and hyper-extension; the common denominator among these movements is an emphasis on hip extension

Same of course goes for the quads and the leg bicep muscles, abs and back exercises, as well as making sure to stretch several times as week as resistance exercises of course tighten up the muscles and stretching helps to keep them elongated, prevents injuries and helps open up the energy pathways to allow for greater energy flow.

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-1 for energy pathways, the false claim that tendons can only be strengthened by static exercises, and the false claim that bodyweight exercises somehow produce a mystical "true strength" that resistance exercises can't. –  Dave Liepmann Jan 1 at 20:49
    
Tendons are strengthened somewhat by any resistance exercises.. but holding exercises specifically targets the tendons to a far higher degree. Bodyweight exercises DO produce a far more effective and universal strength, as heavy weight strength is extremely direction specific, most of which is not applicable to real world situations, especially fighting situations which is why I've always been stronger than even guys 3x my size, especially in grappling, wrestling, pushing, pulling, twisting and other fighting applications. –  JediWitness Jan 1 at 23:08

Taekwondo instructors generally don't have the kind of knowledge you're talking about with regards to identifying muscle imbalance and improving it. For that, you need a personal trainer, someone who's knowledgeable in muscle building and proper exercise form.

Taekwondo itself can develop some muscle imbalance, but in general this should be a pretty minor issue. You're not loading your muscles with weights in TKD, so there's less risk of imbalance. But in TKD, you do practice some moves with greater power and frequency than other moves, and that can lead to muscle imbalances.

Whether the types of imbalances caused by TKD training lead to injury or not is questionable. I personally didn't see myself and others having injuries due to muscle imbalance in TKD. About the only things I saw there that might be due to it would be groin pulls and hamstring pulls. But these were often the result of poor form and lack of proper warm-up. They almost certainly wouldn't occur in "real life" either.

With regards to upper vs. lower body in TKD, this is obvious. TKD doesn't utilize the upper body as much. But this isn't generally what's termed a "muscle imbalance" issue. It's a lot less of a risk.

In general, as an ex-TKD black belt, I still find TKD to be one of the best forms of exercise I've ever done in my life. It has a lot of good things going for it. You can easily just do TKD alone (no other types of exercise) and be physically fit. It improves functional strength in virtually all muscle groups.

The only thing that is bad about TKD, in my opinion, is that it can be very stressful on joints, and this can cause real problems later on in life for some people (some people are more susceptible to it than others). That's okay, it just means you have to listen to what your body is telling you and adjust. If you find your joints are painful after some type of exercise, stop doing that exercise.

Your muscle imbalances will go away if you stop doing weight lifting altogether, since you said you were lifting improperly which caused your imbalance issues. Eventually everything will weaken again. But there's no reason why you have to give up weightlifting. You just have to be smart about it. Find a good personal trainer to give you a good, full body weightlifting program and to look over your form.

If you stick with these four whole-body exercises and stay away from isolation exercises and the "machines", you should eventually re-balance yourself: Dead-lift, bench press, squat, and press. But stick to the proper form!

I'd also add other, complementary exercises to those to balance it out and make it more interesting. Such as: pull-ups, chin-ups, crunches, dips, lunges, step-ups, rows, and Bulgarian split-squats... Look into Jim Wendler's "5/3/1" program. I do that exclusively now and wished I knew about it a long time ago.

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I used to practice TKD when was very young when I had no knowledge abt fitness, muscle balance or imbalance. Not able to recall much abt it... Could you tell what kind of techniques used the 'pulling muscles' like back, biceps hamstrings in TKD? –  Swati Priyadarsini Jan 1 at 13:22
    
The hamstring and groin pulls happen pretty rarely in TKD, but they do happen. I think it's almost always due to incorrect leg positions during a kick. Like when you do a side kick, you want the supporting leg to have the foot pointing behind you. That opens up the groin for the side-kick. But, what if you're sparring someone, and it happens so quickly that you didn't have time to get the base leg into proper position for the side-kick but decided to do the side-kick anyway? Then the groin isn't opened up, and the force of the kick fights against it, causing a groin pull. –  Steve Weigand Jan 1 at 22:38
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And as far as hamstring pulls, these can occur when kicking front kicks, round kicks, hook kicks, and ax kicks. Anything which utilizes the hamstring. During the first part of the round kick, for example, you use the quad muscles, but it's when you pull your kick back when you use hamstrings. Sometimes you can get a pull that way, because you're pulling back harder than your hamstrings are capable of. Landing, too, from a kick can introduce heavy loads on the hamstring as you get into a low stance. But is it muscle imbalance or just lack of warming up? I say it's mostly the latter. –  Steve Weigand Jan 1 at 22:45
    
A good amount of importance is placed on stretching in TKD. This is probably okay, but not optimal, by the way. Stretching often erodes muscle strength. Instead, "functional" stretching should be done. It's different from the types of stretching typically done in TKD. But TKD does a kind of functional stretching anyway, when they perform kicking / punching drills at the beginning of class. That's where you warm up the muscles, which makes them less susceptible to pulls and strains. –  Steve Weigand Jan 1 at 22:47
    
Back and bicep muscles are almost never stressed in TKD. I don't think you'll ever see pulls on those. As for the back, you're always upright in TKD. About the only technique you might see in TKD which torques the back is the butterfly kick. But most TKD schools don't teach it (it's taught primarily in kung-fu styles). The butterfly kick requires tension in the back throughout the technique as well as forming an arch in the back. That can stress lower back muscles. –  Steve Weigand Jan 1 at 22:55

First of all, always be cautious when taking medical advice from the Internet. It's best to consult a doctor or physiotherapist before taking any actions.

Any training where you train one particular muscle group may cause a muscle imbalance. That is why a good instructor will let you train various muscle groups. I'm no Taekwondo expert, but I don't think that Taekwondo training by itself causes muscle strength imbalance.

However, not all people are the same and it's possible that some muscle groups in a person have always been underdeveloped. If such a person starts training, this can cause pain or injuries quickly, especially when doing too much too fast. So always start slowly, talk to your instructor about your (former) injuries and if you are not sure or comfortable with the exercises consult a doctor.

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