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How do I correct muscle imbalances? Add to ...

The question

I want to strengthen my entire body, with a specific goal of getting rid of some of my imbalances. In particular, my left shoulder is weaker than my right shoulder. Would a total-body workout two times a week correct this?

The answer

A twice-weekly full-body workout can help even out your imbalances, as long as you develop your program carefully.

Don’t follow a strength program that will further develop muscles that are disproportionately strong. Instead, your goal should be to emphasize training your body’s weak links.

Try following the guidelines below.

1. Since your shoulder imbalance is a priority, do specific shoulder rehabilitation exercises before the rest of your workout. For example, try this rotator cuff exercise I’ve mentioned previously: Lie on your side. Holding a one- to five-pound weight (palm down), bend the top arm to 90 degrees and rest the arm on your top hip. Draw your arm slightly back in your shoulder socket. Keep your arm at 90 degrees and rotate it so that your fist faces the ceiling. Take four seconds to lower the arm back to its starting position and repeat 10 to 15 times.

2. When choosing your strength exercises, pick ones that require both sides of your body to work independently. For example, do dumbbell bench presses instead of machine presses. Machines allow your stronger side to perform a greater percentage of the work and will often mask muscle imbalances.

3. Work both the stronger and weaker side of your body, but always work your weaker side first. The number of reps you do on your stronger side should be determined by the number of reps you can do on the weaker side.

4. Pay extremely close attention to form on the weaker side. Often form breaks down as the body finds ways to compensate for the weakness.

Trainer’s tip

Start a training log so that you can keep track of your daily workouts and accurately measure your progress.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at trainer@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in the Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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