January 27, 2009

A Weighty Imbalance

Last night at 10 PM, I headed down to the gym to kick my own ass for a while. I was focusing on my arms, so I started with some rowing, which just gets my arms warmed up and my heart rate going, and then headed over to the assisted dip/pullup machine. I’ve been getting really good at pushing myself on that machine, and on the dips, I managed to do an entire set at level 8 (which means I was dipping about 80 pounds). Last year, when I thought I was pretty fit, I was at level 14 – go me!

However, when I switched over to assisted pullups (I rotate the two exercises for three sets each), I found I had to really add on the assisted pounds. To successfully complete a set of assisted pullups, I needed to be at level 12, and even then, I could just barely do it.

From there, I moved on to the side lateral raise machine. I do this one in rotation with the shoulder press (which I realize is a bit silly because they both work the shoulder, but whatever). On round one, I had no weight on the machine, because the base is ten pounds and that was enough to get a burn going. On round two, I added five pounds, and found that by rep ten my form was deteriorating, so I had to drop back down to ten pounds. While on the shoulder press machine that was next to the lateral raise, some totally jacked guy came over and asked to rotate in, which I gladly agreed to. He proceeded to throw on 200 or so pounds for his set before passing it off to me.

I was mortified to have to pull the pin out of the 200-some odd region he had it in and take it out entirely – only to not even be able to complete my set of 15 reps. What. The. Hell. Why are my shoulders so weak? How can my arms be so imbalanced? I headed up to my room to watch television while doing lateral raises with two pound weights in each hand. I figured if I did 200 of those (four sets of 50), it might build some endurance so that I could work up to the five pounds in each hand required for 45 reps (three sets of 15) necessary to do it in the gym. No muscle aches yet, but it normally takes 24 hours for the initial soreness to set in, and then I hit peak soreness about 48 hours after my workout.

Anyone else face an extreme imbalance in muscles like I do? I find it fascinating that my biceps/shoulders are so weak, when those are pretty functional muscles, while my triceps seem to be really strong, and I’d consider those to be muscles I don’t really use much in everyday life. It would seem that the best way for me to pick something up or carry it is to hold it behind my head…


11 thoughts on “A Weighty Imbalance”

  1. I HATE working my shoulders for that very reason. They feel sooo weak. I really don’t know why they are like that.. probably because I hate working on them so I neglect them a lot. Maybe I’ll have to add in extra shoulder work at home to build up endurance too. It’s weird because I’m a swimmer so I’d think they’d be stronger than they are but they really aren’t!

  2. Oh yes! Sadly, even when I was in the bestest of shape and swimming all the time my pullups were horrendous and bench press…fuh-get-about-it!

  3. Hey Laura! I do carry around a log of my weight training. I made an excel spreadsheet of it all to record it..call me a dork. The thing is..everyone at my gym has trainers and carries a piece of paper and pencil around so you dont really feel out of place at all. Even if its not like that where you work out..it would make you look more hard core πŸ™‚

  4. The deltoids (your shoulder muscles) are relatively small muscles and get fatigued quickly. For someone (mostly men) to do a lot of weight on them, they are looking for bulk. They are breaking down the muscle to build it back up. For women, TONED delts look SO much better (tank top shoulders!) Keep with the lower weight and higher reps and you’ll be happy with the results.
    One of my favorite exercises uses no weights at all. Check out a post I did a while back: http://lisasepiphany.blogspot.com/2008/09/oh-those-beautiful-deltoids.html. I hope that helps.

    You sound very strong. I wouldn’t worry about the balance so much. Are you doing bicep curls? That will help balance your biceps with your strong triceps.

  5. Me too! Overhead/military presses are the bane of my existence. I have to drop down to a lower weight for them, while I use a significantly higher one for things like rows, cleans, pulldowns, pullovers, and everything else. Strangely, my shoulders are becoming really visibly defined and strong (a friend of mine recently referred to them as my “guns”), but they’re still incredibly weak compared to the rest of me. I think it’s just a physiology thing – women have weaker shoulders and lats than men.

  6. Ok, it may sound silly, but have you tried running with a water bottle? I mean, it’s not the best to build muscle, but it does have a considerable weight.

    I know I’ve been sore in my biceps from carrying a bottle during a long run.

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