Why one side of your body is weaker than the other—And How to Fix It
“The environment that we live in the western world is typically tailored to those who are right handed, we have door handles on the right, car accelerators and breaks are on the right, which causes us to typically favour the right side of the body,”
Try as we might, it’s pretty tricky to avoid favouring one side over another when we’re training. With dreams of achieving muscle strength symmetry, we talk to Aquanation trainer Lachlan Kewley on how to avoid lopsided gains.
Why you might be favouring a particular side
Unless you’re ambidextrous most people will have a dominant side when they train (hands up who’s been able to do more reps on one side over the other?) and there are a bunch of reasons for this.
“The environment that we live in the western world is typically tailored to those who are right handed, we have door handles on the right, car accelerators and breaks are on the right, which causes us to typically favour the right side of the body,” says Kewley. He points out that this leads to many people factoring the right side of their body in every aspect of their lives, including exercise.
When favouritism leads to weakness
More often than not there’s no harm in favouring one particular side. However, Kewley warns that “if the strength difference is substantial enough through assessment then it can pose a risk of injury just because the load tolerance between the two tissues is different.”
Now consider that in this instance, you wouldn’t have muscle strength symmetry. It might not seem like a big deal, and it may not be, but consider this example from Kewley.
“If you were to pick up a grocery bag off the ground that’s quite heavy and you pick it up with your right side of your body that is used to that weight load, but for whatever reason you go to pick it up with your left side of your body that’s not used to that load tolerance you may be at risk of injury.”
Can’t say we’re keen for that scenario, but we are keen to prevent injuries which is why muscle strength symmetry is so important.
How to even things up
Kewley has your back for getting things even Steven with your strength, and he reckons once you identify which areas are weaker than others it’s to address all those deficits.
“If you do have an imbalance you don’t need to disregard all other exercise and focus solely on the exercises your trainer may give you to address the deficit, it’s more about incorporating that into your workout regime and lifestyle,” the trainer recommends.
The most effective way of create that equilibrium according to Kewley is resistance “because we’re taking away the bias of the two different sides.”
Mistakes to avoid
On your quest to achieve muscle strength symmetry, Kewley warns some common mistakes may deter your success.
“The most common mistake is people make is performing more volume or reps on one side at a given weight, in comparison to their weaker or vice versa.”
The trainer adds another common mistake is exercise technique. He uses the example of a bicep curl where “your preferred side might perform the movement with a locked elbow but your non-preferred side performs it with more of a free elbow so we’re using momentum to bring the weight up whereas on our preferred side we’re isolating that muscle to move the weight for us.”
The reason Kewley says that’s an issue is that the difference in load between the two sides creates a deficit. With technique being a bigger factor that people don’t often consider, Kewley’s recommendation is to work with a trainer to prescribe you a balanced workout.