Correcting Imbalances

One hand farmers carry
Exposing Imbalances

The other day, I was doing farmers carries. The farmers carry is a very simple exercise where you pick up something heavy and just walk with it. Normally, you carry equal weights in each hand, but this time, I was doing a one-handed farmers carry. 

I was doing a one-handed farmers carry with a fifty-three pound kettlebell…200 meters and then switch hands. I started with my non-dominate (left) hand and noticed pain in my right side as my core was trying to compensate for having a weight on one side of my body, and no weight on the other side.  

With my left hand, I had to drop the kettlebell and rest four times in 200 meters. With my right hand, my dominate hand, I only dropped the kettlebell twice to rest. My left side required twice the amount of rest as my right side!

I was a little surprised by this and began thinking about strength imbalances. 


Being out of balance is never advantageous. Not only does this cause differences in strength, but it causes flexibility issues, overcompensation issues, and can even be the source of pain in different parts of the body. 


I want to give you three tests to give you an awareness of where you stand as far as strength and flexibility imbalances are concerned. One upper-body exercise, one core exercise, and one lower body exercise. 


For test one, take a barbell out of a squat rack and place it on your back as if you were going to squat. Alternate legs as you lunge one rep at a time. If an empty barbell is easy for you, add weight until it becomes challenging.

As you perform these lunges, feel each rep and think about how they feel. Compare one leg to the other…is there a balance? Does one leg feel as strong as the other? Can you get as many reps on one leg as you can the other? 


Find something heavy that you can carry in one hand. A dumbbell, a kettlebell, a gallon of water, or even your tool box full of tools. Start with your non-dominate hand and walk for 200 meters. Count how many times you set the weight down to rest. 

After 200 meters, switch to your dominate hand and walk for 200 meters. Count how many times you rest with your dominate hand. Did you rest less or more? 


Test three will require a dumbbell or kettlebell. Choose a weight you think you can get between eight and ten reps. Begin with your non-dominate hand and press from your shoulder to over head with your arm fully extended. Do as many reps as you can then switch arms. Do as many reps as you can with your dominate hand. If you have no imbalances then your reps will match with each hand. 


What does the test tell you? If your reps or rest periods are equal for both sides of your body, then you have no imbalances. Congratulations, you are an enigma!

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If your test results expose an imbalance, this is a weakness you need to work on. Adjust your routine and begin training unilaterally. 

What is a unilateral exercise? When you train bench press, for example, you are using two hands, two arms, two pectoral muscles. This is a bilateral exercise. A unilateral exercise uses only one arm, one leg, or one side of the body. The above three tests are all unilateral movements. 

When training bilaterally, your stronger side will compensate for your weaker side. Your weaker side will never catch up to your stronger side if you only train bilaterally. 

Train unilaterally so your weaker side will have no choice but to rely on its own strength and will progress independently of your stronger side. Re-test every thirty days to check your progress. 

Your body works as one unit when accomplishing most physical tasks. When you have a strength imbalance, it can lead to overcompensation, flexibility issues, pain and even injuries. Attack these weaknesses and stop pain and injury before it even begins.

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and is not intended for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your physician. Any exercise requires risk, and reader assumes any and all risks involved with the exercises shown.