5 practical ways to fix muscle imbalances
written by Philip Stefanov | FEBRUARY 22, 2022
Muscle imbalances are one of the toughest issues to diagnose and resolve. Trainees often work out for years before realizing that a muscle imbalance keeps them from looking (and performing) at their best.
So, let’s take a look at what imbalances are and how you can fix yours, starting today.
What Are Muscle Imbalances?
A muscle imbalance refers to the uneven development of muscles in your body. An imbalance could be purely visual (e.g., one bicep is larger than the other), purely performance-based (e.g., one bicep is stronger than the other), or, most commonly, a combination of the two.
There are two types of imbalances:
- Side-to-side imbalances where a muscle on one side is more developed (e.g., one bicep being stronger and bigger than the other)
- Front-to-back imbalances where there is an imbalance between agonist-antagonist muscles (e.g., the quadriceps are more developed than the hamstrings)
Luckily for us, most of the tactics for fixing muscle imbalances apply to both types. Let’s review.
5 Actionable Ways to Start Working On Your Muscle Imbalances
1. Do More Unilateral Training
Unilateral training means working one side of your body at a time. For example, grabbing a single dumbbell and curling it with one arm is a form of unilateral training.
Doing more unilateral exercises is one of the most practical ways to fix side-to-side muscle imbalances and prevent them from occurring in the future. Here are some ideas:
- Barbell curls ⇒ Dumbbell curls
- EZ-bar tricep extensions ⇒ Dumbbell extensions
- Barbell press ⇒ Dumbbell press
- Squats ⇒ Lunges
- Romanian deadlifts ⇒ Single-leg Romanian deadlifts
2. Do More Work For The Weaker Side
Another practical way to make your weaker side catch up is to hammer it with more training volume. For example, if you’re doing three sets of curls for your right bicep, do four sets for the left. Alternatively, push yourself to do more reps per set on your weaker side.
Starting each exercise by training your weaker side is also a good way to fix imbalances. Instead of focusing on your dominant side, you’re training its weak counterpart while you’re at your freshest. As a result, you can perform better and cause a stronger stimulus.
3. Work On Your Mind-Muscle Connection
The mind-muscle connection isn’t a concept with a ton of scientific backing, but there has to be validity to the idea. Logic dictates that feeling your muscles work is vital for developing them.
Often, your weaker side struggles to catch up because you can’t activate the muscles as strongly. So, consciously engaging your weaker muscle is vital for activating the area better, forcing it to do more work, and allowing it to develop.
The best way to work on your mind-muscle connection is to do unilateral exercises and feel the correct muscles working on every repetition. Bilateral movements can also get the job done, but it tends to be more difficult because your focus is split.
4. Use Your Weaker Side More Often
Your dominant side at the gym is also your dominant side in life. For example, I’m right-side dominant, which means I do most everyday activities with my right arm and leg. For example, I recently had to move a bunch of gym equipment between two locations. As I was doing that, I realized that I was subconsciously doing most of the work with my right side.
You can fix imbalances more quickly by consciously loading your weaker side more. While it might seem insignificant, you can learn to use both sides of your body more effectively and resolve imbalances.
5. Be Patient
Fixing muscle imbalances takes time, often months, and sometimes––years. One of the best things you can do to build a symmetrical and functional physique is to exercise patience, remind yourself that it takes time, and design a training program that tackles the issue.
The great news is that implementing more unilateral work into your training isn’t that challenging because most exercises offer that option. Plus, getting into the habit of doing unilateral training is a great way to monitor yourself for imbalances in the future.
Thank you for taking the time! Until next week,
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