Structural Balance: Fix Your Flaws And See BIG Gains

How can you write a program and train someone effectively if there’s no assessment done on the person? The answer is you can’t.

This is why training with a knowledgeable strength coach will provide you with results that you alone would never see.

Case in point. Cliff Hagerman.

Cliff is a brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor, an mma athlete, and a very good friend of mine. I trained Cliff roughly two years ago for a fight and the guy he was supposed to fight was a “no show”. Since then Cliff has been through a lot. He had a pretty serious back injury, has done a great job training on his own with what he felt he could do, and he has learned a lot about nutrition. When Cliff and I first started training he weighed around 211 pounds with pretty high body fat for an athlete. We got him down to 170 for his fight. And he’s been eating pretty clean ever since.

Now Cliff is back at USI to train (and I’m sure there will be more posts to come).

Now, before writing Cliff programs and knowing what to do with him we need to assess what he’s qualified to do. So we performed a lower body structural balance assessment utilizing Charles Poliquin’s system. A structural balance assessment will tell you what muscles are weak. Like the saying goes, “you’re only as strong as your weakest link”.

So Here’s what we discovered with Cliff.

Test 1: Cliff’s right leg showed weakness in the VMO (vastus medialis olblique) and hamstring. This muscle helps to fixate and stabilize the knee and is involved with knee extension. The stronger and more developed this muscle is the more stability you will have at the knee joint. The more muscle you have around a joint, the more protected it is.

Test 2: Cliff’s feet supinate and he showed weakness in the QL (quadratus lomburum). The QL is responsible for lateral rotation and preventing lateral rotation. These muscles run along side of the erectors which run along your back next to your spine.

Test 3: A weak VMO showed up again, especially on his right leg, which so happens to be the same side he hurt his back on and had nerve damage down his right leg.

Length Tension Test: Cliff was tight in the sagittal plane, medial plane, and lateral plane with his hamstrings on both legs but not that bad. But his piriformis was really tight.

These tests are extremely important in designing an effective training program. Without knowing this one could easily assume that Cliff should squat. After all, squats are one of the best exercises to do. The point is to know what Cliff is qualified to do. If he were to squat and his mechanics weren’t good he would be cementing in poor form, poor recruitment patterns, he’d plateau very quickly in the exercise, and quite possibly could get an injury. The goal is to iron out these weaknesses so his body is aligned. Think of it in terms of a car. If your car had a bad alignment and shook whenever you took it above 45mph then it probably wouldn’t be wise to open it up to 70mph on the freeway. It would just brake down faster. But once you fixed the alignment, then you could drive the car much faster and you didn’t even have to put a bigger engine in it. The same thing holds true with the human body. Fix any weaknesses and then you can perform better. So for now bi-lateral lower body exercises such as the squat are out of the question. There will be a hefty dose of uni-lateral exercises and variations prescribed.

Whenever I’m involved in a conversation about training with someone you always hear them mention squats, dead lifts, leg presses, all bi-lateral exercises. You never hear much mentioned about uni-lateral exercises. Perhaps they don’t know they exist. So here’s a video demo of a few very effective split squat variations of many and one killer lunge variation that is brutally hard. Check out the video.


And here’s the brutally hard lunge called a drop lunge.


You can do these with dumbbells or a barbell. A barbell would be more difficult because the center of mass is higher. I’d try these with a dumbbell first. Once you can do them perfectly then you can give the barbell drop lunge a try.

Fixing any structural imbalances or weaknesses needs to take precedence to becoming an endurance machine. What would it matter if your conditioning and stamina were great but you were pathetically weak?

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