How to measure muscle imbalance
Muscle imbalance or asymmetry can lead to poor posture and bad functional movement.
As a result, it can also result in poor sports performance and long-term pain and risk of injury. Detecting imbalance using ultrasound is an effective way to minimise potential long-term issues.
Anyone can do it
It’s possible for anyone to measure muscle imbalance on any part of the body with relative ease. We’re not talking about using a tape measure and track circumference. We are looking at the actual changes to muscle thickness using portable ultrasound.
The BodyMetrix is already used by many fitness professionals to measure body composition. But that only scratches the surface of what this powerful device can do.
Besides being portable, cross-sectional muscle scans and images give an insight rarely seen.
A Simple Test
After training the user will be able to interpret scans and muscle imbalances.
Let’s take a look at some of these scans to learn more.
This example shows scans of left and right thighs on a 45-year-old male. These scans are over a 6-inch vertical segment using the BodyMetrix Ultrasound system.
The white line at 4mm is the ultrasound reflection between the fat layer and the rectus femoris.
The second line is the interface between rectus femoris and vastus intermedius muscles. The last white line is the femur bone. The yellow arrows show that the total tissue thicknesses are similar on both legs. The thickness of the individual muscles is different for the two regions.
The rectus femoris on the left leg depicted by the red arrow is thicker than the right leg. Total tissue thickness can sometimes hide the imbalance when you only measure the circumference.
Detecting imbalance is a simple comparison of two scans on the BodyMetrix shown above.
Validating client progress
When working with clients, it can be challenging to provide weight loss or muscle gain data. Scale weight only is a poor way to track client progress. Many other methods do not provide enough data to make changes to training and nutrition.
Ultrasound can show scanned images and precise changes to fat and muscle over time. It’s possible to see retention of muscle tissue and fat loss which is the perfect scenario.
This illustration of the arm explains the principle behind ultrasound and BodyMetrix.
This cross-sectional scan of a bicep shows the interfaces as the fat and muscle interface.
The white bands of ultrasound signal show the fat and muscle thickness in milimetres.
The first of these white lines scanning downwards is the fat-muscle interface. The last strong interface is the muscle-bone interface.
Highlighted in yellow are areas of the signal within the bicep muscle itself. These often show intramuscular fat, connective tissue or veins in some cases.
When an ultrasound signal travels through tissue, a strong reflection occurs at boundaries. From this data, we can determine the actual thickens of the muscle and fat tissue.
Let’s look at a BodyMetrix bicep scan as an example.
To begin a measurement, we add a small amount of ultrasound gel to the device.
We then place it on the skin from the mid-point or peak of the bicep and move it down towards the elbow.
After we have taken the scan, we can track interfaces within the scan.
The easiest way to think about a scan is with two distinct boundaries. The first we see on the scan going downwards is the fat-muscle interface. This shows us the actual fat thickness across the length of the bicep.
We can click the white interface and the software draws a red line to identify fat thickness. This gives us the actual fat thickness in millimetres along the length of the bicep.
We then repeat the procedure and technique to locate the muscle-bone interface. You can see this in the last and thicker white line, show below.
Don’t worry too much about the white flickers of ultrasound signal within the scan. Some people over complicate the interpretation of these images. We are looking for strong boundaries rather than intermittent spots of a signal. These show the actual thickness of the fat and muscle tissue structure.
Once we have these two points market out, we can see the thickness of muscle tissue and lean mass in millimetres.
These images give us accurate results and show exactly how much muscle gain or fat loss has occurred.
After we have scanned the left and right muscle we can save these images and compare them over time.
Looking at this data over time shows a client’s changes to both muscle gain retention and gain as well as fat loss. These measurements shift clients focus off scale weight and onto more useful information.
It’s a great way to motivate clients and assist them to achieve their health and fitness goals.