T Nation

Experiencing Significant Leg Imbalance

Hi folks, first post for me, so forgive any minor stylistic errors!

About 6 months ago, I started a 5/3/1 program, which was my returning to squats & heavy(or heavier) lifting after 2 years of relative inactivity inactivity caused by illness.

Everything is going pretty well, and for the most part I’m rapidly restoring myself to my previous peak. However, something odd is happening with my legs.

Simply stated – my legs are hypertrophying at different rates. Specifically, my right quadriceps are visibly larger than my left, most noticeable in the lower outer quadrant – in circumference, the lower part of the upper leg is about 2" smaller than the same measurement taken of the right side.

It gets stranger (or at least seems stranger to me!) – my left calf is significantly larger than my right calf. In fact, the circumference measured at its widest point, the left calf is fully 1" larger than my right calf!

Possibly related issues – when I exercise, especially with higher volume work (such as goblet squats, or even higher speed, higher-resistance cardio sessions on a stair-stepper or eliptical machine), my right quadriceps will start to feel ‘pumped’ MUCH sooner than my left quads.

Knees – a couple of months ago, when I first started to notice this imbalance, I also noticed that when I stood straight, my left knee seemed to be off-set. That is, when I stood straight with legs together, then looked down at the empty space between my two knees, it was very asymetrical, with the notable asymmetry visible as a displacement of the left leg.

I immediately began a regimen of stretching, foam-rolling work, and rubber ball work on my legs (with emphasis on the hips/piriformis region with the rubber ball) – this asymmetry corrected itself and the basic underlying structure of my legs seems more or less back in balance (though of course the muscle imbalance is still visible).

Regarding the left knee itself – I don’t experience pain, at the moment, but my left knee feels ‘wrong,’ especially when my legs are not warmed up. Specifically, it feels like there’s a soft and annoying pressure around the left knee cap…like one single tapioca pearl from a Boba Tea that’s sitting there against my knee cap. It goes away after even a little bit of exercise, but it still returns.

What I’ve been doing so far to work on this issue – in addition to consistent daily stretching and foam/ball work, I’ve been doing a lot of single-leg work on my left leg. As it relates to Wendler’s 5/3/1 program, on days where I work my lower body (squat day and dead day), I’ll do my regular squat or deadlift, but for the accessory/assistance work, instead of bilateral work, I’ve been working the left leg only in an attempt to get things balanced out again. What I’ve noticed is that it seems that with my squats, my right leg has been doing most of the work and my left leg is as weak as the difference in hypertrophy would imply. But I’m being careful and consistent, though I don’t know if this approach is a good idea.


So, in conclusion – left quads skinny, left calf huge, right quad huge, right calf skinny. Left knee wonky. Muscles/tendons/ligaments of left leg/hip wonky but getting better with careful stretching.

My question – how should I approach this imbalance? Is what I’m doing right, or wrong, or just inadequate? Should I see a professional…and if yes, what kind of professional, and why?

Apologies for the length of this first post, but I wanted to be thorough. Thank you all in advance for any suggestions.

I always feel like an ass bumping my own thread…but…this is a little more than just one body part out-growing the one on the other side.

For example, my left hip is stiffening up a lot (in a manner that correlates with the odd muscular imbalance), and it’s getting to the point where I notice that my stride is itself a bit off. Foam rolling and using a ball on my piriformis helps, but it doesn’t seem to be enough – I’d rather identify the precise problem rather than randomly poking at various symptoms.

Again, not looking for an unrealistic magic cure over the internet – I would just like some hints as to what sort of professional I might need to see, and why.

Thanks in advance!

Hey man, sorry I didn’t see this sooner.

I’m 90# sure it’s your left glute being weak and inactive while your right is dominant.

Try flexing your right butt cheek, then the left, I bet you can barely flex the left.

Everything you’re noticing should be just a compensation pattern because of it.

I’d read everything Bret contreras has immediately and also start single leg hip thrusts.

Also, I’d also do this warm up daily, as it will help.

If you could, why don’t you post a video of your squat from a few angles and pics of you in tight underwear from the front, side and back.

I can do a much more accurate assesment that way, but right now, I’m pretty positive it’s your left glute, bring that back up and you’re laughing.

Hope that helps, and never ne afraid to ask me a question, this is all going to work out very soon.

Hey, it took me a little while to finally realize that no, PM’s weren’t actually working, so I just wanted to say that this warm-up has helped quite a bit, and I’m doing it every morning, not just before weight training. I’m also pouring through the Contreras material & integrating it into my leg & hip-hinge days. I think my stride is normalizing and I’m not experiencing that weird left knee thing.

I still have a ways to go before my legs stop looking freakish :slight_smile: But still, results so far are really encouraging, so thank you again.

x band walks.