Maybe you've been working out for a while, or maybe you're new to working out—either way you might have noticed that you're not perfectly symmetrical, meaning your left side doesn't match your right.
Genetically speaking, most people don't have perfectly symmetrical features, and while we may not be able to change natural asymmetry, we do have the ability to change muscle imbalances.
What is muscle imbalance and how does it happen?
A muscle imbalance means that the strength or size of muscle on one side of the body is not symmetrical to the strength or size of muscle on the other side of the body.
Muscle imbalances can happen for all kinds of reasons.
Athletes who play baseball, or golf for example, may produce muscle imbalances because they use a dominant side to throw or swing. Gym veterans and newbies alike can also develop muscle imbalances by relying on their naturally dominant side to push through a PR, heavy lift or intense movement.
It is always best to find the root cause of a muscle imbalance and to make a precise effort to fix it. Muscle imbalance shouldn't be taken lightly--it could create bigger problems, from posture to spinal positioning, which can ultimately lead to issues walking, sitting and even lying down as time progresses.
The power of unilateral exercises
Start to correct imbalances by adding more unilateral exercises to your workout. Unilateral exercises allow you to isolate one side of your body from the other.
Hammer Strength machines, resistance bands, dumbbells, and single side cables are all pieces of equipment that will help you focus your attention on your weaker side.
The reason we want to work unilateral exercises into the plan, and avoid movements that allow both sides to work at once, is simple: the strong side will automatically take over.
If you are doing bicep curls for example, and your left side is stronger than your right, then you will likely lift with greater assist from the left, instead of equally from both sides.
Perform to the strength of your weak side
You will want to formulate your rep scheme according to the strength of your weak side. You do not want to work to that of your stronger side, as this will only exacerbate muscle imbalance.
Since you are going to adjust the amount of reps to suit your weak side, start with that side to get a feel for your rep count. If you can only do 10 reps on your left side, and 15 on your right, stop at 10. In theory, you want to under-train, or maintain the right side in hopes of allowing the left side to progress.
Focus on form and flexibility
Many people choose to fix muscle imbalances on their own, but I also advise in some cases working with a rehab specialist, or hiring a trainer to ensure proper form. If poor form is partly to blame for imbalance, you may need the help of a professional to recognize this and to help you train the right way.
Flexibility can also cause muscle imbalances, so make sure you are taking yourself through a proper dynamic warm up sequence to prepare you for a full range of motion when you train. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of a workout, giving special attention to your weaker side.
Fix strength and muscle imbalances NOW
Don't neglect a muscle imbalance. Instead work towards improving your weaker side, to avoid issues further down the line.
To recap, here are tips to guide you along the way:
- Perform unilateral exercises in place of bilateral exercises when rehabbing imbalances.
- Determine your set/rep range by working to the strength of your weak side.
- Concentrate on form-- hire experts, or video record yourself.
- Don’t forget to perform a dynamic warm up, and to stretch after a workout to promote flexibility
Team Cellucor Athlete Craig is as hardcore as you can get in the fitness industry. He is a fierce competitor who has transformed his physique multiple times throughout his career. Both new and experienced fitness audiences can benefit from Craig’s wealth of knowledge in all areas and styles of training. As both an entrepreneur and family man, Craig so knows a thing or two about the importance of maximizing his time both in and out of the gym. Follow his journey on Instagram (@craigcapurso).