Updated: Jan 26
I see people in the gym regularly struggling with the following barbell exercises:
- Bench Press
- Shoulder Press
- Back Squat
- Front Squat
To be honest, people's lifting form in all of these exercises could be better, but then again the reason we go to the gym in the first place is to get better at moving with weight.
It is not a dig at the coaches, it is just me saying that every coach has learnt how to perform certain exercises differently. For example: if we were all working off the same hymn sheet and every coach was using a standardised set of training cues for each exercise then all of our clients would be the same.
Imagine this scenario.
You see someone doing a bench press in the gym, the first four rep's looks near perfect, the next two he/she is starting to struggle a little bit and the last two look like a real struggle and the bar is going all over the place.
We have all been there!
Your first instinct is to offer your support and congratulate them on a good lift.
Of course you would because it is not your job to know how this person can improve their bench pressing performance...it's mine
One of the ways that I like to help people out when this happens is by assessing something that is known as Limb Symmetry
In it's simplest form, all these means is whether the person is stronger on their left side or their right side. Or even, is there a balance between both sides when they are lifting weights?
Going back to the scenario above or one that you can remember in the past...did you notice the person using one side more to get the weight into the air or was the bar leaning to one side as it was coming up?
"Imbalances Are A Part Of Life, We Just Need To Consider Them When Programming"
As a result of daily living, almost everyone has a dominant and non-dominant side. Think of something as simple as carrying your shopping to the car or writing notes for work, you are always going to favour one side. Over time, when you do exercises that involve both limbs working at the same time, the dominant side can pick up the slack for the weaker side when things get tough.
So How Do I Fix This:
Step 1 - Find Out If One Side Is Weaker In The First Place
Next time you are in the gym, rather than doing something like a Flat Lying Dumbbell Bench Press or Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press, try to isolate each limb by alternating each arm. The same can be done for squat variations. All you need to do from here is mentally take note if one side was easier than the other.
Step 2 - Analyse Your Training Plan
If you have found an imbalance, that is normal so don't worry! You may just need to change a few exercises around. Start incorporating more unilateral exercises into your plan and work on that for the coming weeks of your training plan.
Step 3 - Form Over Weight
With unilateral exercises, you are going to be stressing more than just your ability to lift the weight. You will also be improving the stability of your joint's. So focus more on your form as opposed to the amount of weight you can lift. As you get better you will be able to lift more.
Here Are A Few Exercise Examples That You Can Use:
Seated Shoulder Press -> Alternating Dumbbell Press
Deadlift -> Kettlebell Suitcase Carry
Back Squat -> Split Squat
Bench Press -> Alternating Chest Press
In all instances, the best thing you can do is to seek professional advice to diagnose/treat your injury.
Once you have your diagnosis then the next best thing for you to do is follow a specifically tailored and structure rehab plan that will both help you recover in adequate time but also incorporate preventative exercises that will minimise any future risk of injury.