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Compound Exercises and Muscle Imbalance


This is my first post on T NATION i have just started weight training i am 5'9 tall and weigh only 64 KG so i want to grow some muscles i have read in a lot of different places that for a skinny ectomorph like me compound exercises are the best tool for gaining mass but the problem is that i face some serious imbalances all over my body the muscles on right on the right and left sides are not equally strong since most of the compound exercises involve bilateral movements with a barbell i have problems doing these exercises(the stronger side tends to take over) which will make the imbalance even worse

so i was wondering if i could use dumbells instead of barbells while doing these exercises which will ensure that both sides are working equally the question is whether i will get 100% benefit from these exercises while using dumbells? i mean you can lift muck heavier weight with the help of a barbell.

For example if i do a dumbell military press with dumbells will it give the same benefits as doing the exercise with a barbell?

Another thing the most important one actually is that how can i get rid of these muscle imbalances? can i keep training and eradicate this problem at the same time
(by the way my main goals right now are strength+size strength being more important)



How bad are these imbalances, are they really that noticeable?

First impressions would be that at 140lbs, it's not important enough to worry about (things should iron out somewhat)...but pictures would definitely help.


Use more full stops. You might want to add in commas occasionally too.



Welcome to T-Nation...

PS - American translation: "use more periods"


Ignoring weaknesses doesn't make them go away, just start using dumbbells nothing wrong with them and you can use them bilaterally as well in db bench press and shoulder press.


Nobody starts bodybuilding with perfect bodily symmetry and balance. At 64kg, you simply don't have enough size for slight muscle imbalances to be an actual concern.

Use barbells, and dumbbells. Don't sweat the small stuff, just consciously keep your technique balanced, train very hard and you will find that things even themselves out once you pass the novice stage of development.


If you're talking about the overhead press specifically the problem is more likely poor activation of your upper back muscles and shoulder muscles and reliance on your arms to press the weight. Go lighter and work on form and feeling the muscles work. If that means using dumb bells or even machines then so be it. Use whatever tool lets you get in a solid workout.


If the left side is weakest, train it first on each exercise. Then do the same number of reps on the right, eventually you'll even up somewhat (though never completely).


it's not just the over head press i have problems on other exercises as well.If i just keep using dumbbells will it balance the muscles or do i need to do some kind of exercises or stretches for this? can this problem be fixed in terms of both size and strength of the muscles? (sorry for the bad punctuation guys English is not my first language).


You are likely too small to worry about muscle imbalances. Eat heavy, lift heavy and grow.


Like I said before, use whatever tools let you get an effective workout. Everyone has imbalances and learning to recruit muscles evenly in barbell exercises can be difficult for beginners. If dumbbells let you feel the muscles you want to work work, then use them. If machines do, use those too. Learn what muscle groups are supposed to be involved in the exercises you are doing and make sure you can feel them working. Just focus on getting stronger in your lifts and the imbalances will likely sort themselves out.




I think that If you focus on building a complete program and getting HUGE like say 220-240.......then nobody will be able to notice the imbalances because you are eclipsing the sun with your lats. lol.


Thanx for the reply i think i need to just hit the gym first and see whats the best way to sought these problems.

Here is the workout that i have planned for myself if you think there need to be some improvements then please let me know.

Dumbbell bench press 6-8/3
close grip bench press(dumbbell)6-8/3
dips 6-8/3
bent over rows 6-8/3
pull ups 5/3
military press 6-8/3
dead lifts (should these be done in sets please let me know)
stiff legged dead lifts (how about these)
lunges 6-8/3
squats 6-8/3



(same as day 1)

(same as day 2)

I was thinking that i should skip cardio until i gain about 30lbs i mean doing cardio will slow the muscle gaining process right?
I would appreciate if you like to point any flaws in the routine and make some positive changes thank you.


That's far too much volume for one workout - if you did that every week, you'd be lucky if you lasted 8 weeks without turning into a weak zombie :slight_smile:

If it's a full body routine you're after, then look into things like starting strength from Mark Rippetoe. That sort of routine is pretty good for making the best of newbie gains, but shouldn't be kept on for long (doesn't optimise training for all bodyparts). Or do an upper/lower split. Here's modified split for you to look over and use if you want:

Workout A
-Shoulder Press

Workout B
-Bench Press (slight incline, e.g. 15 deg's)
-Triceps (e.g. close grip bench press)
-Biceps (e.g. alternate dumbbell curls)

Two max sets for each lift (except the big lifts - squat/deadlift, one max set for them). Work up to the max sets, don't just do 2 warmup sets and jump straight to the max, increase load gradually on each set (and use low rep warm up sets, e.g. 3-6 reps, don't wear yourself out before the max set).

6-10 rep range

Alternate the workouts over 3 days a week, e.g:

Mon-A, Wed-B, Fri-A, Mon-B, Wed-A, Fri-B...

Could add in grip work etc twice a week on off days (not before deadlift day though).

Do this for 6-9 months and get to good grips with the basics (perfect your lifting form), eat plenty. You should be adding about 5-10lbs to each lift every week, and growing like a weed.

The trick to making the most of newbie gains is relatively high frequency of big lifts and low volume. Bear in mind that the bigger the lift is, the more it "takes it out of you", so on a deadlift or squat day, you wouldn't want to do many other exercises on top of it.


Forgot to add, you can replace the barbell pressing exercises for dumbbells ^


As a beginner there's almost no way you're going to be able to use that progam for very long at all. Big compound lifts are good, but your day 1 is either a) going to kill you or b) isn't going to be done with any intensity whatsoever as you're going to be wiped by exercise 2 (more likely scenario)

I think a lot of beginners could probably do well on an a/b, upper/lower or push/pull/legs type of split

You could do something like this

day 1 - push
Flat bench
Incline bench
Tricep extension

Day 2 - pull
Bicep curl

Day 3 - legs
Walking lunges
Stiff leg deads
Calf raises

This will hit pretty much everything without trying to cram everything in on one day. Your grip will get plenty of work without a seperate day. Throw core work in every day or every other day as part of your warm up or cool down.

Low intensity cardio will not neccesarily slow down muscle growth as long as you are eating a significant surplus, and done after a workout it will help with recovery (especially on leg day).

High intensity cardio (sprints etc.) may actually help with muscle growth as long as you can eat enough and recover.

The trick in both scenarios is eating enough.

Take a rest day when you need it. Between day 2 and 3 would probably be a good place on the above plan.


Yeah you are right just too much volume i just tried to do my workout today and got owned i will try and see whether this workout works for me or not thanx.


Yeah you need to keep the intensity up, and that's impossible with too much volume. It may seem like you aren't doing enough with that basic routine I gave, but put that extra energy into recovering and lifting bigger weights next time.

Once you've stopped progressing with that routine that I mentioned above (this will happen when your strength reaches a certain point especially on the squat and deadlifts, because your body has more to recover from), then split it up more so that you're doing lifts a little less frequently (e.g. body split 3 ways and done over 5 days).

The key to it is weight progression in the gym and adequate food, don't get too hung up over the routine (as long as form and setup is good, volume/intensity is balanced, frequency is decent, and you are pushing 100%...you will progress well in size and strength). If strength doesn't go up by around 2% each week (e.g. 2-5kg for squat/deadlifts, 2kg for the other exercises every week, or 1 or 2 extra reps per workout) then look at your bodyweight measurements each week: if they've stayed constant, increase food, especially protein.


I have stronger left arm(biceps tricep and delts and even traps are stronger on the left side and that is probably why my left arm hangs higher than the right one because of the more developed delt and trap) and my right pec is bigger than the left pec so while doing the chest press the stronger tricep takes over the left side and the smaller pec on the left side gets to do less work and i feel less pump on right side.Now this is making the imbalances ever worst how do i fix it?

Today i did dumbbell rows on both sides i could do 15 on left but only 11 on right even though the lat on the left side smaller that probably happened because of the stronger left bicep.So whenever i do rows the bicep on the left side will take over and the left lat will get less work done and will grow slowly.This is begging to get really confusing.I dont know what to expect next i haven't tested my legs yet i think i need to fix these problems first and then think of packing on some muscles.Boffin gave a good advice and if any of you guys have something better please let me know thanx.