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More Training Info > Muscle Imbalances

What to Do About a Muscle Imbalance

Q. I've noticed that one side of my body seems to be stronger than the other. What should I do about that?

A. We'd need to know as a starting point whether you've been using machines or free weights for strength training. If you have used exclusively machines, by all means start doing some free-weight or bodyweight resistance exercises using dumbbells and doing single-limb exercises. Why? Many reasons. First of all, strength built on machines has very little carry-over to 3-dimensional, real-life activities such as climbing, hiking, or biking. Secondly, on machines you basically train over and over in one track, limiting the amount of benefit you could be getting from your effort. Thirdly, on a machine, it's very likely that your stronger side will over-compensate and end up doing more than your weaker side. Once you switch from a machine chest press to dumbbells or pushups, you very likely will learn which side is weaker.

That said, when trying to correct an imbalance, always start with your weaker side first and only do on the strong side as many repetitions as you were able to perform (with perfect form, ALWAYS) on the weak side. Otherwise you may end up perpetuating the problem. Another thing to point out is that nearly EVERYONE has some sort of imbalance or weak link in the body. If you are stuck in a training plateau, unable to lift any more for a certain body part, then you may have an undetected weak link (such as rotator cuff in the shoulders, rear deltoids for climbers, or gluteus medius for hikers) that, if corrected, could mean the difference between a pain-free weekend and one filled with muscle aches and suffering!


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