T Nation

Muscle Imbalances

I have a muscle/size imbalance on my arms. My left arm is 15 1/2" and my right arm is 15" I am right handed and my right arm is stronger than my left.

I do mainly barbell exercises for biceps and triceps. Haven’t done many one arm isolation exercises. What should I do to get both arms matching each other or is this a normal thing when building?

Thanks.

I would do a phase or two that focuses primarily on unilateral exercises. Strength imbalances side-to-side are an injury waiting to happen. Why haven’t you incorporated more DB work into your program? Also, what are the current goals of your program? Give us more information (program goals, outline of exercises, etc.), and hopefully we can get everything evened out.

Stay strong
Mike

I have the same exact problem, as does a friend of mine. We’re eager to balance out by strength and size wise. Obviously we will be doing unilateral work, but what progression would you recommend. Even out the strength first and then work on hypertrophy or the reverse. What are the some of your ideas on set/reps/rest interval scheme for doing so.

I’ve been wondering about this for a while now and I anxiously await your feedback.

Rob

Rob,

Unilateral exercises could be an entire set of articles…lucky for you I’m working on one as we speak! The first will deal solely with exercises for the lower body. Hopefully TC will like it and use it for the mag!

As far as sets, reps and rest intervals, I would start out with higher reps (8-12) and a higher TUT to try and improve motor control. Obviously, you will want to start off with the weak side first. Even if you have to start off with a 3-1-3 tempo, make sure that you are using the muscles you want to use. Rest intervals don’t need to be huge (60-90 seconds), simply because you’ll also be getting rest when the opposite side is working. I would do 3-4 weeks with this set/rep scheme, and then start focusing on more neural-based adaptations in a lower rep-range.

If you are interested, you might also check out Ian King’s limping series. He gives several unilateral exercises for the lower body, as well as protocols for addressing varying degrees of muscle imbalances. For instance, if you are X% stronger on one side, you will perform Y more reps on the opposite side.

Hope this helps!

Stay strong
Mike

Mike,

I’ve only been back at working out for 7 months now and been focusing on compound exercises to build strength which is why I haven’t done more dumbbell arm work. Isn’t it weird though that my larger arm is not as strong as my smaller arm? What kind of injury do you think could occur from this?

I’ve been doing mainly hammer curls and tricep pushdowns bent bar. These exercises have gotten me to today. What exercises and weight do you think I should focus on to rebalance?

Thanks.

I think a possible reason the weaker arm is bigger is because it is working to failure more often. You’re supposed to train the weak arm first so you do it say 8 times and get stuck. Your right arm being stronger gets to 8 and may have another rep or two left in it and it may not get as fatigued and won’t be prompted to grow as much. That’s my completely uneducated guess.

Outlaw,

Just because you use dumbbells in your program doesn’t mean you are focusing on strength. In fact, the main reason I use dumbbells in my workouts (as well as that of my athletes) is to make sure we are developing equal strength between limbs. Sometimes if people are overly dominant in one limb versus the other it will actually be smaller because it’s overtrained and/or in a constant state of atrophy/muscle-wasting. I have seen this a ton with people who work in factories where they perform repetitive motions day-in and day-out.

As far as exercises go, I would check out the BSU website for pics and descriptions of tons of exercises. Find a few that you like and incorporate them into your workout. Good luck!

www.bsu.edu/webapps/strengthlab/

Stay strong
Mike