First off, I just want to say that you are never going to be perfectly balanced. Heck, if you brush your teeth with only one hand twice a day or press the gas pedal with your right foot…right there you are already creating an imbalance!
And we do way worse things than that on a daily basis to create imbalances!
We sit hunched over a computer. Spend hours commuting in a car. We walk and text.
These all create muscle imbalances between opposing muscles. For instance, our hips get tight, our glutes are underactive and then our hips, hamstrings and low backs try to do the work our glutes should be doing.
But it isn’t just imbalances between opposing muscles, but also imbalances between our right and left halves that can cause problems!
Ever notice when doing a glute bridge that you feel one glute but not the other?
Or ever notice you tend to struggle to keep one shoulder down during pull ups or rows?
That is also an imbalance!
And while we will never be perfectly balanced, there is a difference between normal strength discrepancies between dominant and non-dominant sides and imbalances that put you at risk for injury.
And the more you can NOTE any imbalances, the more you will just be aware of any compensations you may have so you can prevent those imbalances from becoming INJURIES!
So say you know you have more than the normal slight difference between your dominant and non-dominant sides…
How can you start to correct that imbalance?
A. Do you do more reps on the weaker side?
B. Do you use less weight on that stronger side based on what your weaker side can do?
C. Do you do what your stronger side can do and force your weaker side to do it?
Want to know the answer…D. All of the above! 😉
All of those can be implemented and all can work. Exactly what you may need will depend AND you should probably even use a combination of them all to get the fastest, and best, results possible.
When doing activation, I’ll often have clients do extra reps, or even ONLY reps, on the side that doesn’t activate as easily or may be weaker. That helps establish the mind-body connection.
Then often when they start out with a new move, I’ll tell them to start on their weaker side and base what they use off of what that weaker side can do. You want to make sure you don’t overload yourself and then start compensating on that weaker side!
So sometimes slightly holding that stronger side back is necessary so that weaker side can work correctly.
BUT if their form is good and they’ve been working out with a move for awhile and really want to build strength, sometimes I’ll have them do what their dominant side can do.
HOWEVER, this is only possible as long as the weaker side can maintain good form and recruit the right muscles. If you do this, you will simply PAUSE briefly (10-20 seconds) as needed until you complete the same number of reps on your weaker side as you could on that stronger side.
So say you can do 10 on that stronger side, but 5 before you start to compensate or fail on that weaker side.
Do 5, pause as briefly as possible, keeping it for sure under 30 seconds, then complete another round.
If you can get out the rest, great. If you need to pause again after doing 3 to finish the final 2 that is fine too. The point is to pause so you can finish with good form using the right muscles.
This is great if you’ve gotten the activation down and can move some weight but just don’t yet necessarily have the “endurance” on that side.
All of these different techniques though help correct the imbalance while still challenge your body so you get results and everything grows stronger.
They key with all of these though is using some UNILATERAL EXERCISES in your training. This helps you isolate each side to correct the imbalances and even help improve your bilateral lifts!
And heck, if you’re a runner, you need unilateral training even more because running is a unilateral exercise!
So if you’re working to correct imbalances, start implementing a combination of these techniques!
Here are even more posts to help you correct those imbalances, including unilateral training, activation workouts and why imbalances are worse than inflexibility!
–> Why Unilateral Glute Activation Exercises Are A Must-Do!
–> Unilateral Booty Burner Workout
–> Why Imbalances Are Worse Than Inflexibility
–> Unilateral Training – Why you should do it and 23 Unilateral Moves!