Why Does One Side of My Body Feel More Worked When I Exercise?

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Man holding dumbbells (Image: nirat/iStock/Getty Images)

Your reasons for exercising may include your health and body appearance. As you exercise, if you continuously feel that one side of your body is receiving more of a workout than the other, it is time to adjust your workout program. This lack of symmetry may be the result of one side of your body being stronger than the other; of using only weight machines; or of focusing on pushing exercises and not balancing your workout with pulling exercises.

Side Dominance

As you participate in daily activities, you probably use one side of your body more than the other. You may not realize that you always open doors with your right hand or step onto a curb with your left leg. These habits have developed over the years for reasons such as convenience or avoidance of pain. For example, if you always carry your belongings in your right arm, your arm is receiving strength training. If your right knee has pain, you may avoid using your right leg to step up. These seemingly harmless patterns can lead to a side dominant strength. This transfers to your exercise program where you may continue to use your stronger side more than your weaker side.

Free Weights

One way to overcome side dominant training is to use free weights instead of weight machines. When you use weight machines, your stronger side can continue to support the majority of the weight. During free weight training, especially when you use dumbbells, each side of your body has to support the same amount of weight. For example, when you perform an arm curl on an exercise machine, your right arm can pull the majority of the weight. If you perform that same arm curl using a 15 lb. dumbbell in each hand, both arms are lifting equal amounts.

Weight Machines

If you are unable to use free weights, you will need to make a conscious effort to use both sides of your body equally. Until your body develops equal strength on your right and left sides, concentrate on using your weaker side as you perform the exercises. You may also choose to use weight machines, but use only one arm, or leg at a time for the movement. Reduce the amount of weight to match your weaker limb and use that same weight and number of repetitions on the stronger side.

Push-Pull

If you are feeling the front side of your body is exercising harder than the back side of your body, you may need to adjust the exercises you include in your workout program. Pushing exercises include an overhead press, chest press, and arm extension. Pulling exercises include back pulldowns, arm curls, and seated rows. You may include favorite exercises into your workout such as pushups, shoulder presses and triceps dips, which are pushing exercises, and neglect pulling exercises, which will cause you to feel increased fatigue in the muscles of the front side of your body.

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