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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

Muscle and Flexion in Recovery

Contributing Author: Rubin, Josh O.T.

Josh RubinJoshua Rubin graduated from American International College with a B.S. in Occupational Therapy. After working with the geriatric population for many years, he decided to take his career to the next level. By incorporating corrective exercise, nutrition and lifestyle coaching with his rehabilitation background, he began working with individuals of all ages within the personal training industry. This is where he found his love for holistic coaching, and as a result of developing San Diego’s EastWest Healing & Performance in 2002, he is one of Southern California’s top Personal Trainer, Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, and Rehabilitation Specialist.

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Keith wrote:
I was hoping you could help me with this... my client came down with a virus about two weeks ago. He just resumed weight training this week, and he noticed that his pulling muscles are as strong as ever (he can row, chin, and lat pull as much as he did before the virus). But his pushing strength has really been affected by the virus. He can't bench or dip as much as he could before the virus. I've never heard of viruses affecting one muscle group more than another. I though viruses have a systemic affect. Have you guys ever heard of a similar situation? Any ideas on how to better explain this strength discrepancy to my client would be appreciated.



In all my years of working in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, I have never heard of one particular virus affecting one group of muscles and not others. Of course, there are certain diseases that do, but for this situation, I can’t pinpoint anything. In most cases such as this one, I personally believe that the experience may be more psychological than anything else may.

When we become sick, a lot of things—physiologically, physically, nutritionally—can affect us during, as well as after, we recover. Certain things you need to look into are: did your client lie in bed for two weeks, was he sitting on a couch, did he work, what did he eat or not eat, what did he drink or not drink, etc? The answers to these questions play a big part in answering some of your larger questions.

We have muscles in our body that are phasic, which means they are:

  1. fast twitch
  2. prone to inhibition
  3. mostly used for movement
  4. have early susceptibility to fatigue
  5. react to faulty loading by weakening

As well as that are tonic, which means they are:

  1. slow twitch
  2. prone to hyperactivity
  3. mostly postural muscles
  4. have high endurance thresholds
  5. react to faulty loading by shortening

So, taking the above information into account, when your client was sick with this “virus,” most of his phasic musculature became short and tight and his tonic musculature lengthened. This created a flexion/extension imbalance throughout the entire body. When working out, he likely uses his global movement muscles for everything, negating the importance of using the tonic postural system, which could be why he had the psychological experience of feeling stronger.

Another area to think about is that most Americans have a flexion/extension balance in the body, secondary to working more and moving less. So, we see most Americans hunched over at their desks all day and then, when they get up, they look the same. You see people with Upper Cross Syndrome walking around with more short thoracic flexors and short cervical extensors and elongated long thoracic extensors and deep cervical flexors.

In the case of your client, taking time off while he was sick may have allowed his overly shortened muscles to relax, giving him more ROM and use of his extensor muscles. This may have given him the experience that he is stronger, but in reality he had simply increased his ROM. It’s just a thought that may make sense in this particular situation.

As an alternative consideration, most people overtrain and believe that more is better. Taking time off may have given your client’s body the rest it needed to recover, so that he is now actually at his potential. He may have been working out too much, which created pattern overload, lack of ability to fully recovery, and pulled him away from his full potential.

Good luck!

Josh Rubin