Sunday, April 14, 2024

How to make your weaker side stronger: Important things to keep in mind

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Meet Dana Santas, also known as the “Mobility Maker.” She’s a certified expert in making bodies strong and flexible, especially in pro sports. Dana wrote a book called “Practical Solutions for Back Pain Relief.”

Now, let’s talk about your body. It’s okay if one side is a bit stronger or works better than the other. For example, if you’re right-handed, using your left hand might feel a bit awkward, like when you try to brush your teeth. Most people have a side that they naturally use more.

But here’s the thing – problems can start when one side of your body does too much work. Imagine if your dominant side takes on too many tasks, like carrying a heavy load all the time. That’s when you might feel pain, weakness, and even be at risk of getting hurt from using certain muscles too much.

And because our muscles are connected, this imbalance can affect other parts of your body, like a chain reaction. So, it’s essential to find a balance to keep everything working smoothly.

Here’s a simpler version:

Here’s the not-so-great news: If you use one side of your body more than the other, it might cause problems. The good news? You can fix this by being aware and doing some exercises to balance things out. This way, you can happily embrace your body’s natural differences without any pain.

Now, why does favoring one side become an issue? Well, if your job involves a lot of physical work, it’s a common way for your body’s dominant side to cause trouble. As someone who helps athletes with their movement and mind-body connection, I’ve seen it happen a lot. Take a Major League Baseball pitcher, for example. Using their dominant arm too much can lead to a torn ligament in the elbow, and they might need surgery to fix it.

But it’s not just pro athletes who face this. Everyday tasks can make it worse too. Imagine a cashier scanning items using the same hand all the time, or a parent carrying their baby on one hip throughout the day. Anyone who repeatedly uses their dominant side for activities involving lots of movement or strength might end up with constant pain and a higher risk of injuries. The key is to do something about it before it becomes a problem.

People often make their side dominance worse by not properly recovering from an injury. Let’s say you slipped and hurt your less-used side, like your left ankle. To move around, you might end up relying more on your stronger, right side. Without taking care to balance your recovery, you could keep favoring your right side even after your left ankle gets better.

To fix this, pay attention to your daily activities. Be aware of how you tend to favor one side, and try to make small changes to balance things out. If you usually carry a bag on one shoulder, switch sides regularly. When you stand for a long time, check if you’re putting more weight on one hip and leg, and adjust if needed. Even sitting on the same side of the couch every night can make you depend too much on your dominant side, so mix it up from time to time.

Because our bodies are naturally better at using one side, certain activities like golf swings, throwing a ball, or even writing are harder to change. If your job or daily life requires using one side a lot, it’s crucial to follow a regular exercise routine to bring back balance. When I work with athletes, a big part of my coaching is about this.

Remember: Before starting any new workout, ask your doctor. If you feel pain, stop right away.

Exercise for balance
It might seem strange, but the best way to make your body more balanced is by focusing on one side at a time during workouts. When you do exercises that involve just one leg or one arm at a time, you make sure both sides get the same workout. This not only fixes any imbalances you already have but also stops new ones from happening. By concentrating on each side separately, you’re making sure your muscles work the right way, helping coordination, and building a strong and balanced foundation.

When you’re working on getting stronger by lifting weights, dumbbells are like magic tools that make sure both sides of your body work equally hard. Unlike big barbells or fancy machines that might let one side do more work, dumbbells make each arm or leg do its own heavy lifting. This helps you stay balanced and fix any differences in strength between your right and left sides.

The cool thing is, you can do a whole workout with just one dumbbell to build strength on each side. Some examples of exercises for this are lunges (going forward, backward, and sideways), lifting one leg while bending over, pushing a weight up with one arm, and pulling a weight up with one arm. No matter what exercise you’re doing, it’s important to pick a weight that’s right for how strong you are and to do the moves the right way.

Fixing things with science
Unilateral training is like a secret weapon for getting better after an injury. Studies have shown that when you train one side of your body with this kind of exercise, the other side gets a boost too. It’s like the strength spreads across both sides, even if you’re only working one side. Scientists call this cool idea “cross-education training.”

Surprisingly, training both sides of your body is important when you’re recovering from injuries on one side, like the UCL surgery for pitchers we talked about before. If one side is hurt, paying attention to the other side helps to prevent losing strength in the injured limb. This makes healing faster and better because the side that wasn’t injured gets stronger.

Just like it’s helpful for recovering from injuries, training both sides is good for people without injuries too. You don’t have to focus only on the weaker side; doing exercises with both sides equally helps to make your strength and stability balanced.

By following this advice, you can confidently use your stronger side, knowing that you’re doing things to keep your body balanced and avoid pain and injuries.

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