Balance: What Does It Mean And How Can We Measure It?

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Today’s article comes from Zachary Greenwald, a Strength Coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist and founder head honcho over at StrengthRatio. He works with a diverse population ranging from professional athletes to people with chronic pain, using functional movement screening and corrective exercise. He earned a Bachelors of Arts in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


The human body is built to pull, push, lift, squat and carry. Healthy, pain free activity implies harmony among these movements. Simple ratios allow us to quantify where we are strong and where we are weak. If we repeatedly stress our bodies more with our strengths than with our weaknesses we are less likely to recover and more likely to feel aches and pains.

How do we know if our aches and pains arise from activity that was once strong and overstressed, or from activity that was ignored and under stressed? If your knees hurt, do you need more squatting or less squatting? If your shoulder hurts, do you need more pushing or pulling and in what direction? If your back hurts, do you need more lifting or less lifting?

I have devised a basic guideline to better understand the relationships among major exercises, which can be used to determine whether or not you need more or less of a particular piece. These relationships have been studied by elite weightlifters, power lifters and strongmen and have been refined and expanded upon by my mentor, Dr. Corey Duvall, Owner of the Stay Active Clinic in Asheville, North Carolina. There are many more exercises than just the ones that I’ll mention, so you can think of this as the first layer of the onion.

I recommend that you categorize a week of your own training into “pull”, “push”, “lift”, “squat” and “carry”. If the frequency of your training surrounds stronger exercises then I encourage you to challenge weaker ones. This will refine your strengths, limit plateaus, and prevent/reduce chronic pain. The goal is not to be perfectly balanced; instead, the goal is to trend in a more balanced direction over time.

Balance Guidelines

1) Back Squat vs. Deadlift

The Back Squat should be ~20% less than the traditional Deadlift. The traditional Deadlift has the same capabilities as the Sumo Deadlift.

2) Supinated Chest to Bar Pull Up vs. Dip (Downward Pull vs. Downward Push)

Why Chest to Bar (C2B) vs. Chin Up? At the top of the Chest to Bar Pull Up, the musculature that rotates the shoulder blade downward fully shortens and the musculature that rotates the shoulder blade upward fully lengthens. This is a fuller range of motion than experienced in a Chin up. Chest to Bar Pull Ups should be balanced with Dips. If bodyweight Chest to Bar Pull Ups or Dips have not been obtained, train with assistance on a Graviton. Unlike using bands, the assistance used on the Graviton is easily measurable. Your bodyweight minus the assistance equals your new weight.

3) Supinated Chest to Bar Pull Up & Dip vs. Deadlift

For every Chest to Bar Pull Up or Dip, there is potential for a double bodyweight Deadlift.

4) Supinated Chest to Bar Pull Up & Dip vs. Overhead Squat and Farmer Carry

For every Chest to Bar Pull Up or Dip, there is potential for a bodyweight Overhead Squat and bodyweight Farmer Carry for 10 meters (1 rep=10 meters).

5) Upward Push vs. Upward Pull

A Behind The Neck (BTN) Press should be balanced, in weight and repetitions, with a Narrow Grip High Pull (NG High Pull). This demonstrates balance between the internal and external rotators of the shoulder. The BTN Press puts the external rotators of the shoulder in a shortened position and the internal rotators in a long position, the NG High Pull does the opposite. These two exercises have the potential to be 45% of the Back Squat. The same balance exists unilaterally, between 1-arm DB press and 1-arm DB High Pull but at 20% of the Back Squat

* Below is the résumé of an ideally balanced 150lb person with 5 Supinated C2B Pull Ups and Dips (this rep range is arbitrary and could have ranged from reps 1-20):


Downward=Chest to Bar (C2B) Pull Ups: 150# x 5

Upward=NG High Pull: 100# x 5


Downward=Dips: 150# x 5

Upward=BTN Press: 100# x 5


Deadlift/Sumo Deadlift: 300# x 5


Back Squat: 225# x 5

Overhead Squat: 150# x 5


Farmer Carry: 300# (150#/side) x 50 meters

As mentioned before Zach works with a wide array of athletes ranging from world class athletes to folks rehabbing an injury or coming off of surgery. His program is designed for the dedicated athlete, professional or amateur, interested in remote coaching and individualized programming. Whether the goal is to break past plateaus, rehabilitate injury, or take performance to the next level, the Strength Ratio program will strengthen your weaknesses and refine your strengths. For more information please check Zach out


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