T Nation

Need Help With Symmetry


I am right handed and never really worried about symmetry before somebody actually told me that my left side (esp. arms) looks much weaker than my right side. Since he said that my mind is playing tricks on me, and something that never bothered me before, something I never even realized bugs me. A lot.

So, what should I do?
Should I add some sets with DBs for my left side after doing the normal exercise with a BB? Or should I do the left-side DB exercises before my DB stuff?

Help would really be appreciated.


You pretty much have it there:

In Iso-lateral exercises, train the weaker side first, then match the reps with the stronger side.
Use DB's over Barbells (Presses, Pulls etc), this will ensure your stronger side doesn't help the weaker side.
Use Hammer strength equipment over regular machines.

If you really have a large imbalabce in say biceps for example, there is noting wrong with adding more reps/work to the weaker side - but this has tobe monitored carefully, as before you know it the imbalance can be switched around!

Many years ago i had an imbalance in my lats.. my left was smaller than the right. I began to 'focus' on the LHS during back work and really concentrated on the contraction. With little iso-lateral work i managed to 'cure' this imbalance over the following couple of years.

The same can be said for my Traps, i had a larger left than right hand side trap. I added some DB shrugs, Armpit rows and concentrated on the RHS when Bar/Machine shrugging.
I would throw in a few extra reps on that side during DB shrugs, and really focused on the RHS during the sessions. This imbalance was bettered in around 12-18 months.

IME bringing up imbalances isn't quite as hard as building fresh muscle - it is as though the opposite side of the body has proven it can be done - so it takes less time to bring the other side up.
Whether this is psychological, due to knowing that it can be done, rather than hoping, i dont know.



Post this in the beginner forum.


Well, it's not always a beginner's question.

Due, I believe, to a left shoulder problem over the last year that seems to include a nerve impingement, my left biceps had actually lost size. I really hadn't noticed it as I don't hit double biceps shots (not that there's anything wrong with that) and for that matter it is hard or sometimes impossible for me to get the left arm in that position anyway. And I was equally strong on the left as on the right in unilateral rowing exercises, and I didn't have any issues I noticed with barbell exercises including EZ-bar curls.

But yet it was so.

Fortunately it hasn't seemed to create an imbalance of other things on the left being thicker than the right, except, oddly, the left upper trap is a bit thicker than the right. But that could be unrelated.

Anyway, my solution to the problem was at first more sets for left than right, but this did not help (perhaps the amount being done in the first place was fairly optimal, as it was intended to be after all); then doing the same as usual for the left but on the right side immediately supersetting a unilateral DB exericse for the left but this helped only a little. Finally I focused on solidly putting mental focus particularly into the left biceps while doing curls. Though this was in fact not more work, it's what fixed the problem, in my case anyway.

For that matter, as for this not necessarily being a beginner's thing, that year that Coleman's right lat was relatively small, he says that was from nerve impingement, and he was not able to correct that within the same year. Imbalance is not necessarily a beginner's problem.


Fair call. Except that with this being the OPs first post, and no information about current training, photos to show the problem, I was extremely reticient about taking this seriously and wasting my time which is what seems to happen alot on this site. There are some absolutely fantastic threads to learn from, then another pile of absolute bullshit from people who just need to train first.


If we talk "imbalances" in general terms, then there are lots of ways to deal with things. One of the first things I get trainers doing with unilateral type exercises, such as a bicep curl for example, is to lead off with the weaker/non-dominant arm then match reps with the good side.

I have seen too many examples of guys repping out the big weight on their dominant side, then trying, and failing, to do the same on the weaker side but not worrying, and hence creating imbalances over time.

For shoulder related issues, deafferentation about the shoulder joint is a common problem leading to faulty movement patterns and creating imbalances over time. The problem with the shoulder especially is that problems in central drive tend to manifest in the previously asymptomatic limb owing to "neural spillover", to use a rather gross term. I prefer to use biofeedback (a mirror) to make sure that movements, such as a weighted front punch, bear hug with dumb-bells (you can go quite heavy with this), are balanced and don't use compensatory strategies (shoulder hiking), that can lead to fun imbalances (such as in upper traps).

I have time for you Bill :slight_smile:


jerk it with your left... lol j/k... i had that problem for a little while.. what fixed it is incorporating dumbbells into the routine for every muscle group at least or 1 handed exercises...


lol shit, stole my line


I am glad that you took the time to post something anyway. Not that it was helpful, interesting to read or funny, but at least you're proving that you can choose fitting nick names.

Regarding uni-lateral exercises starting with the weak side first: Doing this already. Will now replace BBs with DBs where possible. Thanks for the help.

Regarding myself: I am not a BBler (or not yet, we'll see...), I guess this also explains how I managed to get 'imbalanced' in the first place. I did start lifting weights around 15yrs ago, so I wouldn't call myself a 'beginner', I just wasn't concerned about the symmetry related aspects of weight training until a couple of weeks ago.

Again, thanks for the helpful replies. I'll do my best to put it into practice.



Again, thanks for the helpful replies. I'll do my best to put it into practice.

More info = more helpful replies.

Seriously though, mirror work is a fantastic form of biofeedback if you are having problems around the upper shoulder girdle, or for that matter doing squats/lunges/split-squats. Check whether both sides are matched in movement and away you go.


Thanks :slight_smile:
Shoulders are actually not that different in size, main problem are left triceps and the forearms. Biceps is a bit smaller, but catching up nicely so I am not too concerned about that.

Will lower weights a bit and check my form in the mirror more often.


Now we're getting somewhere. What I'd suggest first is do a 1RM strength test to see how much the strength difference is, then base your strength training at 80% of the left (if it is weaker).

Bilateral pushdowns (two cables and separate cams if you can) are a good exercise, making sure both arms are equally loaded and push down with the same relative tempo. This is better than rope/bar pulldowns, french press, or anything with an EZ curl bar where it is easier to compensate.

In future as well, be careful with any pushdowns/kickback type exercise that you aren't pronating too much at the bottom on one side more than the other (usually the stronger side as well), which can also lead to aesthetic imbalances.


Incorporate more unilateral work. HS machines help with this. I've noticed the very same thing on my back. Its starting to get better now.



I do use a mirror for practically everything.

The one thing I do see asymmetry on, have only picked it up recently, is deadlifts. For some reason in the start position the "natural" position has the left shoulder a little different than the right. Luckily the join line in the T-shirt on the top of the traps (approximately) gives a good reference, so with effort I can equal the sides out. But it's odd to me that it's happening in the first place. Hadn't noticed this till recently.

Fortunately, the shoulder problem winds up, at least in terms of pain, only being a problem outside of the gym -- doesn't hurt during any of the movements I now do. Well a little bit on lateral raises, but they are done unilaterally anyway (I do the incline bench variant.) I can readily see where pain during exercises could very easily shift patterns of movement.


That's an exercise (deadlift) I'm curious about for creating problems around the shoulders. I'd like to get to see more individuals who have exclusively used an alternating grip, and the same one, for a period of time to see if they've caused any problems around the scapula.

What grip do you tend to use with your deadlift?

I go for alternate, but rotate hand position session to session.

The big guru to read up on shoulder issues about is Ben Kibler, an orthopedic surgeon who found over time that moving away from primary surgical treatment to exercise improved his outcomes. Then he started doing research presenting what he was finding in practice.

Has anyone here (who reads this) found shoulder problems from using a persistent alternate deadlift grip for a long period of time?


Double overhand virtually exclusively. More than 99% of the time.

But your point that for those who use mixed grip perhaps it could lead to imbalance issues certainly sounds reasonable enough for me (while I have no evidence on it.) If a person has no imbalance and no symmetry problem then no issue of course, but if they do, it would be interesting to know what interactions there could be.