Establish Your Dominance
Improve your athletic capacity as well as your symmetry with this unique take on non-dominantside training.
Ina perfect world, all would be equal — Democrats and Republicans would play nice, women would get paid the same as men, and pi would round out to a nice, terminal number. But such is not the way of the world — or your body. You almost always have one side that is stronger and more dominant than the other, either naturally or because of sport-specific adaptations. Think of golf, tennis and baseball and you’ll catch our drift. This dominance also can manifest in the gym: If you’re right-handed, you’re likely stronger on your right side, and the limbs and muscles on that side become more developed as a result.
“A structural imbalance from too much dominance of one side can lead to an injury,” says David Weck, creator of the BOSU balance trainer and founder of the Weck Method (weckmethod .com). “Another thing that can happen is the non-dominant side can essentially go along for the ride and get less developed than the dominant side.” In a dumbbell shoulder press, for example, your dominant side can press more weight; so, faced with a barbell, the dominant side naturally takes on more of the load, not because you consciously ask it to, but simply because it’s stronger.
Greater control of your non-dominant side means improved sports performance since both sides of your body can better work together as one unit, and educating both sides to execute a strength movement properly will mean bigger returns in the gym.
But rather than pushing the limits of the non-dominant side — nailing it with heavy weight for weeks on end to catch it up — Weck recommends a different strategy. “You never want to decrease your attention to the dominant side — in fact, you want to pay closer attention to why the dominant side feels stronger and more coordinated,” he says. “Isolate the actions of both the right and left sides to feel the discrepancies and seek to balance the abilities of both sides.”
Back to the dumbbell shoulder press: If your right side performs better than your left, do an exercise with the right side first to get a conscious feel for why this is. “Notice the stages when you are the strongest, the most balanced and the most powerful,” says Weck. Then when you perform that same move with your non-dominant side, try to mimic the movements and strengths you experienced on the dominant side. “You are in essence able to ‘download’ the intelligence of the dominant side and ‘program’ it into the nondominant side,” says Weck. “By switching back and forth with this kind of mindfulness you can improve the non-dominant side much quicker.”
Try this technique for yourself: Grab a rebounding medicine ball (4 to 6 pounds) and stand three to five feet in front of a wall. Take the ball in your dominant hand and stand with your nondominant foot forward. Perform five single-handed throws against the wall with your dominant hand, catching the ball on the rebound with both hands. Notice the movement patterns you use to throw and catch the ball on your dominant side. Now switch sides, holding the ball in your non-dominant hand and putting your dominant foot forward. Perform the same throwing action, trying to mimic the movements you just performed using your dominant arm. Do three rounds, alternating back and forth, and see if you can improve your weaker side a bit.
Solve imbalances in your physique by paying greater attention to what your dominant side is doing during exercises.