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Ditch The Barbell To Fix Muscle Imbalances

4 Steps To Balance Out Your Physique!

Posted by TimeIsMuscle - August 15th, 2019

Most of us are not born with elite genetics, with body parts and muscle bellies that are of equal proportion, size and shape. Therefore, as bodybuilders, physique and fitness enthusiasts we are constantly challenged whenever we look into that mirror to somehow come up with a formula that will fix such muscle imbalances.

What Is A Muscle Imbalance

A muscle imbalance means that the strength or size of muscle on one side of the body is not symmetrical to the strength or size of muscle on the other side of the body.

What Causes A Muscle Imbalance

Muscle imbalances can happen for all kinds of reasons. Gym veterans and newbies alike can develop muscle imbalances by relying on their naturally dominant side to push through a heavy lift or intense movement. It is important to note here that a muscle imbalance that you have or develop further from an early age can create potentially more severe problems later in life when you are older. For example; posture and spinal positioning issues, which can ultimately later lead to problems walking, sitting and even lying down.

The 4 Step Solution

4 Steps you can implement to fix this conundrum:

  1. Use unilateral exercises to fix symmetrical imbalance – A unilateral movement is a movement that's done by one limb (i.e. one arm or one leg); as opposed to a bilateral movement which is a movement that is done by both limbs working together, such as two arms.

  2. Begin with the weaker side to fix the proportional imbalance – For example, my right biceps is smaller than my left (a common muscle imbalance I think many people can relate to). Therefore, my right bicep would dictate the rep range, resistance and intensity.

  3. Do additional work on the weaker / smaller side – Apply progressive overload by increasing the load lifted, reduce rest time, increase reps and sets.

  4. Fix the underlying problem i.e. mobility/flexibility – Whilst one of the above strategies will usually fix any muscle imbalance you have it’s also worth exploring the underlying cause.

For example, this could come down to you not executing the exercise with proper form going through the full ROM or maybe you have an issue with mobility and flexibility in general that need to be addressed. Let’s say you have tighter quads, hamstrings and glutes on one side of your body. You can bet it will compromise your squat and deadlift performance in a negative way which will subsequently lead to muscle imbalances somewhere down the line.

Another common example is if you have restricted mobility in one shoulder. This will impact your bench press and shoulder press form which can result in one side doing more work than the other. Therefore, with all this to consider you must identify the problem area you can work on when it comes to improving flexibility and mobility, as this will help ensure the muscle imbalance doesn’t return after you’ve fixed it.

How To Fix A Symmetrical Imbalance

  • Switch from barbell to dumbbell (unilateral) based exercises to start working each muscle or groups of muscles independently, i.e. barbell biceps curls to dumbbell biceps curls.

  • Always start on the weaker side and only allow the stronger side to do as much work as the weaker side. This will stop the stronger side continuing to progress further than your weaker side.

  • Always let the weaker side dictate your workload for reps, sets, resistance and rest times, then repeat the same blueprint on the stronger side.

How To Fix A Proportional Imbalance

Consider increasing the training volume/frequency with regard to the out of proportion area/lagging body part by doing an extra workout for that body part. It’s important here to focus on progressive overload over-time with the aim of getting that weak/problematic area stronger.


To fix both symmetrical and proportional imbalance requires separate approaches respectively. To conclude, fixing an imbalance won’t be an overnight process, you will need to work on your muscle imbalance for a prolonged period of time to see significant results.

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For years I have tried and practised many bicep exercises and while I lack in mass, in my opinion, I feel that I make up for that...