Get ready for a hard truth: You are not perfectly symmetrical, and your uneven strength and mobility capabilities could bring major consequences. But dismay not, everyone faces this issue. The aim of this piece isn’t to scare or dishearten you, but to introduce a new filter through which to view your fitness strategy: uncovering and correcting your side-to-side imbalances.
We all have a dominant side and a host of preferences that follow. We are all also subject to the imbalances presented by societal norms and our chosen daily patterns. Everything you do throughout a typical day, including—and probably especially—everything you do in the gym, only strengthens these discrepancies. We all have drastic side-to-side differences, and unless we build an awareness and concerted practice to reduce them, we only drive them deeper.
Even the most body-aware and vigilant amongst us can inadvertently widen the gap, even after identifying (and actively working to resolve) our imbalances.
I’ve recently discovered that I fall into this camp. I am a hyper-body aware athlete with a huge focus on movement quality. As I approach surgery, I can now share first-hand the lesson that side-to-side imbalances are like a dormant volcano: they pose no imminent threat until the moment that they do.
While there are countless ways to discover your potential issues (the most valuable of which are trained coaches, practitioners, and manual therapists), I offer a jumping off point to discover your strength, mobility, and coordination asymmetries. These test movements are not meant to give you any definitive answers (that always takes some deeper digging and often outside guidance), but they are chosen for their ease, accessibility to nearly all athletes, and strength of sensation that they create.
I’ve written recently on how sensations are our best physical teachers. As you make your way through the following movements and tests, pay attention to what you see and feel. Even if you do not uncover any glaring deficiencies, you will develop a deeper understanding of your body, an invaluable resource toward your future progress.
Lower Body Tests
- Single leg balance
- Single leg jumping and landing
- Calf raises
- Single leg lifts: deadlift, airborne lunges, pistols, etc.
Upper Body Tests
- Bottoms-up press
- Single arm hang
- Seated twist
- Side plank
- Single arm plank
- Bird-dogs and bear crawl hovers