By Kim Duke
NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer
Symmetry, in everyday language, refers to a sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance. More than likely, you were taught about symmetry in an elementary school math class and have not thought about it much since then. But, you should, and especially when it comes to your body and your fitness routine, because an asymmetrical body could be the culprit behind a nagging injury or the reason you are still struggling to meet your fitness goals.
Unsurprisingly, pain is the biggest tip-off that there is an imbalance. “Eighty percent of the time when you feel an injury, it’s referred to as pain, which is when it’s felt somewhere other than the actual source,” says New York City based trainer Kira Stokes. “Pay attention to one-sided pain or tightness- that is a clear indicator.”
“Your pelvis is a prime example”, says David Reavy, a Chicago based orthopedic physical therapist. “The hip and foot are dependant on the pelvis, and the knee depends on the hip and foot.” So if you feel knee pain, the root cause could be a pelvic imbalance, he says.
Paying close attention to how you feel during strength training can help you zero in on your problems.
The following are just a few moves that can help you evaluate your symmetry, Re-test every six to eight weeks and note any weaknesses so you can address them with a trainer or physical therapist.
In-Line Lunge: Start in a narrow lunge, right heel aligned with ball of left foot. Hold a towel vertically down your spine, right elbow pointed toward the ceiling and left hand at lower back.
Lower into a lunge, keeping towel straight. PAY ATTENTION TO: Front knee, if it’s moving away or toward midline, it could mean an imbalance in your hips and glutes.
Deep Overhead Squat: Start with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Hold a towel overhead stretched between extended arms.
Sit into a deep squat keeping towel-aligned overhead. PAY ATTENTION TO: Knees and heels. If the knees cave in, that indicates a hip weakness. If the heels come off the ground that means calves may be tight, limiting ankle mobility.
Triceps push-ups: Start at the top of a push-up position, elbows tucked in by tour sides. Perform a push-up keeping elbows tucked and the body in a straight line. PAY ATTENTION TO: Butt and shoulders. If you are “worming” up butt first, that could signal a weak core. If your shoulder blades are moving in sync, there may be an imbalance in postural muscles.
Imbalances unravel in unique ways. It’s all about getting to know your body, and having people whom you trust take an objective, quantifiable look to help you identify where you can improve. Often times isolation exercises can be a key strategy to strengthen these weaknesses (think single-leg squats and single-leg glute bridges), plus exercises that work multiple planes of motion at once to ensure the body is equally challenged.
There is no cure all for asymmetry. But, there are strength moves, which you should incorporate into regular workouts, which can still make an asymmetrical athlete stronger and smarter.