I have some news to share. We are all asymmetrical. Trying to create balanced movement without understanding this can lead to injury.
Have you noticed a harder time with your front splits on one side of your body? Or maybe it’s always been a struggle for you to get your turn-out on that side too?
No matter how much you stretch and strengthen, you will not achieve symmetry without compensation. Compensation, of course, leads to injury.
Here’s why: Our bodies are just not symmetrical! Take a look at these images of different systems in our bodies. Notice how none of them are exactly the same on the left as the right?
Illustration from Anatomy & Physiology, Connexions Website. Photo credit – Khan Viqar blogspot.com http://cnx.org/content/col11496/1.6/, Jun 19, 2013.
The diaphragm inserts, on average, one full spinal segment lower on the right (L3) than on the left (L2). The Diaphragm – Actions – Innervation – TeachMeAnatomy The difference in the diaphragm dome height and attachment sites make every human better at inhaling into our left lungs and good at emptying our right lungs.
These underlying asymmetries that all humans have (unless organs are completely reversed – extremely rare), make us heavier on the right mid-section of our bodies. The heart is not heavy enough to equal it out, and, it’s located higher. In fact, the right side of our body organs are 2x heavier than the left! How Much Do Your Organs Weigh? (verywellhealth.com)
As a result, every human has:
- Center of mass shifted to the right
- Easier time turning lumbar spine to the right
- Easier time turning upper spine to the left
- More restricted right groin, hip internal rotators, abdominals, intercostals, Quadratus Lumborum, neck muscles
- More restricted left hip external rotators, hip abductors (TFL, Glute Med) latissimus, pec major, lumbar extensors
In Dancers, this can present as:
- More restricted right hip turn out, side split mobility, shoulder turn in, shoulder height
- More restricted left hip turn in, ability to bring pelvis toward leg, shoulder pull back, hip extension
- Difficulty keeping shoulders balanced
- Difficulty keeping pelvis straight ahead
- Difficulty keeping neck straight/head from tilting
If we understand and respect this underlying asymmetry, we can make it affect us much less! Here’s what I mean…
- Do some “corrective exercises” daily AND before stretching or dancing. This means activating the muscles that help us bring center of mass to the left; hamstrings, groin, obliques while breathing into the spaces that tend to be limited, right side and upper chest/back, lower left back. Here are two of my favorite activities for this:
- Consider strengthening the body differently on the right and left sides. Do more reps of hamstring, groin, and ab work on left vs more tricep, traps and lateral glute work on right.
- Avoid succumbing to asymmetry when sitting, sleeping, etc. Sit & sleep in a way that keeps your right ribs more open, pillow under ribs when sleep on left, prop right shoulder on the table or arm of couch.
- Change things up routinely. Sit on the other side of the couch/class, look out and to the left vs right, stand on the other leg, put your purse on the other shoulder, put your phone in the other hand or pocket… you get the idea!
Have questions? You can find me on Instagram at @prosper_pt or you can shoot our team an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.