T Nation

Nervous System Training For Lagging Body Parts

My overall progress is going well for all bodyparts except
for my left bicep. (I am right handed.) Despite the fact
that I do compensatory training to get my left bi to “catch
up” to my right, the left is still lagging. It is
definitely the bi and not the tri, because the tris look
the same size and are the same strength, but my left bi is
noticably smaller and weaker than my right. I am convinced
that the problem is that I have poor neuro-muscular control
of my left bi - or that I have some sort of nervous system
impingement with my left bi. So, does anyone have any
training or therapeutic tips for improving bodyparts with
poor neuromuscular control and/or nerve impingements. I’ve
used a technique that Poliquin developed which he called
“skipjacks”. That helped somewhat, but didn’t resolve the
problem. I’ve also seen an ART practicioner, but he didn’t
have an answer either. Any help would be greatly
appreciated because this is really frustrating.

i’m with ya brother. i have a very similar problem.
i’m right handed but my left side has always been bigger and stronger.
i believe the reason for this is because i’m a kickboxer and my left side is usually under greater tension, from jabbing and kicking more off this side.
i then experienced what the doctors called a long thorasic nerve palsy on my right side. in one weekend i lost a considerable amount of size ans strength in my delt,lat, and serratus. i couldn’t even lift my two year old boy above my head.
the doctors did nothing for me and told me to wait it out.
it was like this for awhile, then i went to a chiropractor and it stated working. i had to quit going because of insurance reasons, but most of the size and strength came back. i’m at about 95%-97% of what i was.
then about a year later it happened to my left side. it lasted for about a month and came back rather quickly.
i’ve tried different things but nothing has got my right side up to snuff.
what i’m doing now is trying to kill two birds with one stone.
i want size back to my right side and i want to lose some fat. so i’m dieting but i quit lifting except for my right side. i got this idea from ron harris. in one of his articles he talked how he hurt his ankle i believe and was unable to train legs. this allowed him to concentrate more on his upper body and he made some good gains.
i know you can’t gain mass while dieting, but i thought if i was just concentrating on a few body parts instead of my whole body, i might be able to pull it off.
any thoughts?

Chiropractic? BTW, what’s a skipjack?

Try doing one arm dumbell shrugs with the left arm between each set of biceps you do. Also you may want to add in some neck bridges.

Eric: a skipjack is when you do exercises for opposing
muscle groups on opposite sides of the body at the same
time. An example would be to do dumbell curls with your
left arm at the same time as doing a single arm tricep
press downs with you right arm. This trains the nervous
system in a way that it is atypical, and thus helps to
get over any “sticking points” in the development of your
nervous system WRT training.

Kelly: are you suggesting that doing the left arm dumbell shrugs between bicep sets, and the neck bridges, will somehow help the neuromuscular development of my left bi? If so, do you have any idea how? Thanks for the tip.

Are you over analyzing the fact that one side is bigger than another? I’ve seen some neurotic bodybuilders freak out because one trap was a millimeter bigger than the other, or one ticep didn’t have the exact same horseshoe shape as the other. NOBODY has exact matching bodyparts in size. We’re not robots. However, if you truly have one side that is substantially smaller than another due to an impingement, chiropractic is the only answer. The bone pinching your nerve isn’t going to move by itself. Try to find a good Gonstead Chiropractor in your area. One adjustment won’t cure your problem, so be prepared to go once a week for several weeks.

Sig: Thanks for the suggestion. Am I overanalyzing the
situation? I don’t know; you tell me. My right arm is
17" and my left arm is a half inch smaller at 16&1/2".
Is that a big differance or not? And like I said, it
appears to be all in the bi, which is significantly weaker
than the right. BTW - I don’t really consider myself a
neurotic bodybuilder, as I consider my health to be more
important than my BB progress.

I had/have a very similar problem. I asked Ian King about why one side biceps can grow to be larger than another. He said that usually it’s because of a neural impingement in the lats, chest, or neck. After stretching these areas extensively three times a week and right before arm training, the arms are slowly evening out. So get into an intensive stretching routine. It’ll most certainly help, and definitely not hurt.

Yes, the neuromuscular firing is very closely related between the traps and the biceps. I’ve heard Poliquin tell of a guy in a gym that came up and asked him why he couldn’t feel his biceps while he was training them…Charles had him do a couple of sets of heavy shrugs and then one set of curls…the guy came back and finally had a pump in his biceps. I’ve found out for myself this to be true… before I got involved in olympic lifting I would have to do a shit-load of sets for biceps before I ever felt a semblance of a pump, or had any growth for that matter…After doing olympic lifting for a while (which really, really involves the traps a lot), I found that I could cut my total biceps sets down to 1/4 of the normal volume and still get better strength and muscle gains. I’m just guessing that since only one of your biceps is lagging behind the same will work for you. On second thought however I’d say go ahead and do a 2-armed dumbell or barbell shrug before you do your 1-armed curl. Don’t wanna get those traps out of balance too.

Doug and Kelly: Thanks. I’ll definitely try both extensive
stretching and some trap work (both sides) prior to my
bicep training; and trap work (both sides) in between bicep

Not to repeat the obvious, but I’m with everyone who suggested the chiro. It is very easy to get entrapment in the cervical and upper thoracic vertebrae that can cause dysfunction. If you go, make sure you work with someone who does a lot of sports rehab and who will also help you with a stretching protocol as described in the other posts. I’m surprised your ART person didn’t think of this!

Followup on this topic:

I've been to an ART practicioner several times now. This particular ART practicioner also happens to be a chiropracter. Each time I was there I had him working on things other than my left bi, but each time I also had him work on my bi. I kept telling him "I really I think I have some sort of impingement for me left bi." So he worked through all the nerve pathways each time and he keeps telling me that he can't find any impingement, and that it is his opinion that neural disfunction is not "on the nerve wire" between my brain and the muscle, but that it I am not getting as effective recruitment and firing in the muscle, or else my brain is not sending as effective a signal from my brain to my left bi as my right. He also stated that this is not uncommon because humans are bilateral with a dominant side. He went on to say that he has the same problem: his right bi feels more powerful contractile than his left, and that it was just that his brain wasn't sending as strong a signal. I do think this guy is competant/knows what he is doing because he was recommended to me by Leahy's office, and he has done a good job on the other things he has worked on (elbows, rotator cuffs, hams). So I trust his judgement. Anyway, I'll still try the training tips you guys suggested, but I'm not going to bother pursuing any more chiro work.

OK guys. Today was the first day of trying the workout with bis and shrugs in the same workout. Since I never before knew of the "neural-relatedness" of traps and bis, I've never done the two together before. Also, instead of doing some half-assed trap movements in between doing bis and some other bodypart, I opted to do a full workout of just traps and bis. It is somewhat of a specialization program where I do these two together twice a week, and do all other body parts in a normal manner once per week.

The first thing I noticed about this workout is that my bis got much more pumped up than they normally do. I mean they looked huge. The second thing I noticed was that my strength went up slightly. For example, if I could normally do 9 reps of slow zotman curls with 35lbs, then I could do 10 reps when doing a set of shrugs prior to the zotman curls. The third thing I noticed was that this workout was much more difficult than I anticipated considering that these are both relatively small muscle groups. I will let you know if I am any more sore than usual, and what results I achieve from this program.

One other note, in using Chris Shugart's idea of a finishing exercise, I ended my workout with farmers walk with heavy dumbells. I've started a seperate thread on that.