Having spent some time (possibly an understatement) on various fitness and bodybuilding forums, it is clear quite a few trainers have an issue with muscle imbalances and symmetry. “My right bicep is bigger than my left, what should I do?”, “I can do more reps with my left side than my right, should I carry on lifting more on my left?”, and other such questions I have seen posted several times. I too have had this issue, being able to comfortably curl a lot more weight with my left arm in comparison to the right, even though I am naturally right handed. So, what is the best way to correct these muscle imbalances?
First of all, we are not all perfectly symmetrical. For those into bodybuilding, take a look at a contest picture of Jay Cutler doing the double biceps pose, and note the shape of the biceps heads. However, for those of us who have a notable stronger and more developed side, the best approach to correct the muscle imbalance is to start unilateral training for the imbalanced muscle group. This will incorporate training with dumbbells, cables, and possibly some machines, all of which make each muscle work independently of the other, unlike many barbell exercises which integrate both sides of the body to lift one weight.
Repetitions should remain equal for both sides of the body, to ensure muscle balance is restored. Allowing the strong side to continue to perform a greater number of repetitions would leave the weaker side ever chasing the stronger side, never correcting the muscle imbalance. The best approach to take is to always start the set with the weaker side of the body, and perform as many repetitions as your strength allows. Allowing the weaker side of the body to start a set has the benefit of setting a bench mark of how many repetitions to perform on the stronger side, even though you may find this less challenging and quite comfortable. This style of training can be continued until the weaker side has caught up in repetitions to the stronger side of the body.
It would be recommended to continue with a variety of unilateral exercises, to ensure the stronger side does not begin to overpower the weak side again in the future. The use of dumbbells and cables could prove a wise choice for those who have had muscle imbalances, as it also serves as a marker on the strength of each side of the body to ensure balance.
I would be interested in hearing other peoples thoughts on muscle imbalance and training methods. The above recommendations come rather from experience than anything else, so it would be great to hear from people who have over come muscle imbalances in the past, so leave a comment below as always.