Asymmetry in Strength and Yoga Training
Asymmetry is a misunderstood concept in many exercise protocols. Want a real challenge? Try doing your regular exercise routine with only one weight, or one leg or arm. You will discover something very new, even if you just go to the pool for an exercise class, next time, go to the deep end of the pool.
When coaching clients for yoga or strength training, I usually employ these techniques for 6 weeks, at least twice per year or if the person has been injured or has surgery. It may sound strange but training the unaffected side while the person is healing helps maintain core strength and the part of the body that is still healing. Dan John has a nice article you may want to read as well. ( Dan John article)
What is Asymmetrical Training?
Dr. William E. Morgan, DC says, “Consider these asymmetrical activities of life: carrying groceries or a toolbox, swinging a hammer, shoveling, sweeping, eating, using the mouse for your computer, carrying a small child, or gardening. These activities are performed with a dominant side performing most of the work.
Functional asymmetry abounds. Asymmetry is even more obvious in athletics: tennis and all racquet sports, golf, baseball, boxing, martial arts, basketball, football, and lacrosse. These activities require propulsion, primarily from one lower extremity, with the core stabilizing to transmit power.”
Asymmetrical training isn’t just a “new protocol” for training, for me, it’s how we actually live. We all have our most preferred (dominant) side and we will unconsciously use that unless we CONSCIOUSLY decide to use our non-dominant side or limbs.
Here’s Your Basics
Whatever exercise routine that you do make sure that ALL of the 6 Fundamental Human Movements are included. These are push, pull, hinge, squat, loaded carry and groundwork. If your routine is missing some of these; consider adding the missing components into your program. You may even consider hiring a trainer or a yogi just to familiarize you with the movements. SAFETY FIRST.
If you are doing Ashtanga or flow yoga on a regular basis you are doing all of the human movements, except for loaded carry. Which would be easy to add into your daily routine.
Are You Strength Training?
Strength training is defined as:
A type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction. This builds strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles (hypertrophy).
When properly performed, strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being. Increased bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament strength, and toughness improved joint function, reduced the potential for injury, increased bone density, increased metabolism, increased fitness and improved cardiac function. (source: Wikipedia)
4 Kinds of Strength Training
When I take on a new strength or yoga client, this the exact order that I train them in. The process is, at minimum, 6 months to a year to work through all 4 training protocols. That may seem like a long time but my clients don’t get injured and THEY REACH THEIR GOALS.
Do your movements slowly and deliberately.
Weight isn’t as important as conditioning your muscle movements and employment of the whole body into the exercise. You are creating a “new groove” body part training is so “1970’s”. Exercise has finally gotten back to where it began, whole-body training with every movement.
When people begin to any kind of exercise regimen, the biggest danger is the first 3 to 6 months. It takes time for the tendons and ligaments to become conditioned. The muscles of the body will condition in 3 to 6 weeks where the connective tissues can take 12 to 16 weeks.
If you are new to exercise, over 40 or recovering from injury or surgery… GO SLOW. Think of exercise the same way you are supposed to when changing your eating from child to adult. Think about exercise as a lifelong skillset. I know for a fact the last day I’m on this planet; I will have done something to improve my strength, mobility, my core and my ability to enjoy being alive.
There are, both, slow and also super-slow strength training routines and regimens. Each has their merits. For the purposes of this article, I’m talking about just going “a little slower” than you would normally with a routine that you are familiar with. Taking the time it takes to get the new exercises “into the muscle”. This reduces injuries while increasing your caloric burn and your skeletal muscle growth (which is a good thing)
Later if you want to slow it down more (like 4 seconds up to a minute) for each rep… have at it. But that is more about muscle growth and bodybuilding rather than strength training.
The human body functions in a 360-degree world and as such require a balance of integrated muscles working together to accelerate, decelerate and stabilize the skeleton at various angles and ranges. Machines and symmetrical training create an unnatural environmental stress. This causes adaptations to a stress that is not consistent with the body’s design. (source: https://www.ncsf.org/blog/25-usingasymmetricalexercisetocorrectbilateraltrainingproblems)
Whatever type of training you do, remember that the body’s sole function is to habituate and economize your movements. The body’s hard wiring is designed to be maximally efficient while preventing excessive calorie loss and exhaustion. This runs counter to most people’s fitness goals of weight loss, increased strength, and endurance.
Asymmetrical training is a great way to confuse the body’s hard wiring, at least for 6 weeks or so, but then you have to change your routine again.
THIS PROTOCOL HAS A WARNING LABEL.
If you have been training consistently for a year, I’d say, “it’s safe for you to do this protocol”. If not, be sure that you hire a trainer or coach to make sure that your form, strength, and endurance are up to par for these type of exercise protocols. Now, if you are a teenager or fit enough to be a Divison 1 college or Olympic athlete… go for it.
This warning is for the rest of us normal humans who have a 9 to 5 job and wish to be able to walk, sit or stand without surgery.
I do know lots of people who are interested in or currently attend HIIT classes (High-Intensity Interval Training)
and most began because their gym is offering it. Remember that the whole concept behind this was to take professional and Olympic athletes to a new level of strength. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. It does mean that you probably will want to work through the other 3 protocols, first.
Sample Asymmetrical Routine
Here’s a sample routine. This can be done is several ways depending on your current workout and your strength or exercise goals. Strength Training for regular humans is designed to be done 1-2 (no more than 3) times per week. You will need time to recover.
*Fun Fact – your body will continue to burn calories for 14 hours after strength training
Do 3-5 repetitions of each exercise with 1-2 minutes rest. You may do them in order or do all 3-5 sets of each exercise before going to the next one.
If you need to rest longer, go ahead. Strength training isn’t about keeping your heart rate in the aerobic zone, it’s about having the weight heavy enough to challenge you.
This is a true HIIT format and you will need a Tabata app.
Pair two exercises for your first round. Then the next two. And then the last two.
The whole routine will take 22 minutes, that includes a 5-minute warm-up and cool down
The Tabata settings are:
20 seconds of 1 st exercise
10 seconds rest
20 second of 2nd exercise
10 seconds rest
repeat for a total of 4 minutes
rest 1 minute
repeat until all exercises are completed
One of the simplest push exercises. This can be done with a ball, a dumbbell or any other height changing device.
The goal is to make one side of the chest work harder than the other. Switch arms between sets.
Pull exercise are actually more important than push exercises. The muscles in the back get longer and weaker as we age, so special emphasis needs to be placed on these muscles groups. Switch arms between sets.
The hinge is the King of exercise. The stronger your glutes (buttocks) and hamstrings are, the less torque, pressure, and strain on the back. Switch legs between sets.
These can be done with or without a strap. If you are new to pistol squats, I recommend safety, always. A good quality strap can be found on Amazon (TRX is my favorite) for less than $100 dollars. This strap will come in handy for lots of other exercises and it’s cheaper than a gym membership.
A deceptively simple exercise. Walk for 20 seconds or 20 meters. Switch arms between sets. Loaded carry is one of those exercises that we eliminated right about the same time we invented the wheel. This exercise burns TONS of calories. My personal favorite is to carry on or two baskets while shopping, instead of using a shopping cart.
Sorry, there are no photos for the get-back-up exercise and this video will help you get the concept.
I recommend that you just do the simple version. Use one side to get up and quickly as possible for 5 repetitions or 20 seconds depending on which routine you are doing.
Try this routine for 6 weeks and see how fast your strength and coordination improves. If you need any help with the exercises or just have a few questions, feel free to contact me by phone at 214-702-3374 or by email.