Building Strength by Correcting Asymmetry

Symmetry is one way to view balance.  If something is symmetrical, its 2 sides are equal in size and shape.  Lack of symmetry is asymmetry.  My experience is that most systems need symmetry to maximize strength and efficiency.  My experience is also that much can be done to correct asymmetries.  Let’s consider an example.

For example, the human body.  Most people have asymmetries in their body.  Usually one side is slightly larger or longer than the other.  If you look closely, one eye might be larger than the other, a leg longer, or most commonly people notice a slight difference in shoes sizes between their own two feet.  Its impossible to correct for these genetic asymmetries (currently) but we can minimize their effects.

People inadvertently develop their asymmetries.  Some examples, some people are stronger on one side than on the other, use of the right more than the left hand, and then there are unknown asymmetries that develop into injuries.  For example, why did you blow out your left knee instead of your right knee?  Probably because of higher use and impact on that knee.  Injuries can be avoided by correcting for asymmetry.

You can develop more strength by developing symmetry.  That is because strength is the ability to resist a force, or sometimes we consider it as power as well.  And because our body works by operating 2 sides, the weaker side is your limiting factor.  Consider the runner that strides a little longer and pushes a little harder with the right leg.  When pushed to the extreme, when trying to maximize power, that leg is developing more and taking more stress.  That means it will reach the failure point sooner.  The point of failure is important – we all should strive for it when working out.  That is, afterall, how to progress:  induce some failure, recover and then the body recovers to be ready for the next workout.  After the recovery period, the body will have a higher threshold before failing.  That is how strength (and asymmetries) develop.

So, consider workouts that, instead of working 2 sides at the same time, work 1 side at a time.  Once you start doing this, you might find that one side is stronger than the other.  Then, develop your planned resistance, repetitions, duration, time, etc. for your weaker side.  Because of this, I usually use free weights instead of machines – because the free weights allow isolating each side and working out each side individually.  Try variations of 1 legged squat exercises, step-ups, lunges, add free weights to these exercises, etc.  The seated leg press machine allows use of one leg at a time.

You can also consider strengthening an organization or business in a similar way.  Strengthen the weaker parts – wherever that “bottle neck” might be occurring, or where that weak spot is limiting production.

Its that time of year – the time I like to look back at my year, correct and adjust for asymmetries, and look forward with goals.