Whether minor or major, muscular imbalances from your left side to your right side are common. For example, if you are right handed, you may be stronger in your right arm and shoulder muscles. When people are stronger in one side, they tend to reinforce this strength by using that side more (because it’s more efficient). They may also become stiff and have inadequate range of motion on one side more than the other. An imbalance can eventually lead to pain and dysfunction in your body.
Performing unilateral exercises (movements that put stress on right or left side), can help correct asymmetries, by putting equal stress on both sides independently (so you can’t “cheat” and bear the load on your dominant or stronger side). Unilateral exercises isolate one side, and engage your core uniquely as your body is challenged to balance.
Here are a few unilateral exercises for your upper and lower body you can incorporate into your exercise routine.
1. Reverse Lunges: Take a big step backward with your right leg and lower yourself (slow and controlled) until your knee is a couple inches off the ground (or more, if this is difficult). Make sure you have a chair or wall nearby for balance if needed!
Do 10x on the right side, then 10 on the left. Repeat.
2. Unilateral Half-Kneeling Overhead Press: Kneeling with your left knee out in front of you, and a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand, perform an overhead press.
Do 10x with hand in your right hand, then switch (so right knee is out in front, and weight is in left hand). Repeat.
3. Single Leg Romanian Deadlift: Balancing on your left leg, hinge forward at your hips until you feel a good stretch in your left hamstring or until you’re parallel with the ground. Keep your core tight so that you don’t hunch forward in your back. Your left foot should be grounded, and your left knee should not be locked.
Unilateral training is great for muscular asymmetries, core strength, and balance training. Let us know if you have any questions or are dealing with any pain in your exercise routine! 616-662-0990
By: Lisa Pfotenhauer, C-EP
Steve Bartz, PT