Moms are the least symmetrical people around. Seriously. Pause from reading this and look down at your forearms. Chances are your non-dominant arm is more muscular than its sidekick. Why? We carry our heavy ass kids around all damn day. We more often than not carry our children with our non-dominanent side so that we can use our dominant hand to get things done.
I am a twin mom, which means I’ve been carrying around two heavy ass bundles of joy. And while I likely have more symmetry than many moms, you can see by this picture of my forearms below that my left is WAY more veiny and muscular. That’s because I am a righty. This asymmetry has been apparent since I had my first kid eight years ago. Wild, isn’t it? I’ve even noticed that my left deltoid sticks out more.
In exercises, I can feel the imbalance. My left arm is discernibly stronger, but my left glute is weaker–probably from holding my kids and jutting out my hip, reducing that side’s glute activation.
So why do we need symmetry?
A balanced body obviously works better and looks better, too. But more than that–imbalance can create a ripple effect of injuries and pain that can be easily avoided by simply incorporating unilateral resistance training.
Think of it like this. If you have a rock in your shoe, you will compensate by putting more weight on the other foot. But eventually your shin and knee starts to ache from favoring your foot with the rock in the shoe. The pain might progress and go into your hip, or low back.
Unilateral exercises allow you to train away asymmetries and reduce the risk of injury. For moms with weak cores, and/or diastasis recti, it is of even greater importance to address the discrepancies. Unilateral exercises challenge your balance and require you to recruit the deep stabilizing muscles of the body. This study on core muscle activity concluded that unilateral exercises were superior to bilateral exercises in development of core strength. Makes sense. You have to use your deep core muscles (obliques and transverse abdominis) to pull your body back to center and maintain balance. Developing these core muscles is important for rehabilitating our mom bods, plus it is integral in protecting your spine, increasing your balance and stability, and overall increasing athleticism and functionality.
I, personally, try to incorporate some unilateral exercises a few times each week. This could be single leg deadlifts, one-legged pistol squats, dumbbell snatches, farmer’s carry (aka mama’s carry) with uneven weights, Bulgarian split squats, etc. The possibilities are truly endless.
Here’s the prescription from Breaking Muscle–and I think they are spot on:
When doing these exercises, start with the weaker side. After working that side to fatigue, do the same number of reps on the stronger side. While you won’t be working to fatigue on the stronger side, you’ll be bringing the weaker side up to meet it, enabling you to strengthen both sides equally as you go forward.