Does symmetry matter in your training?

There is always a lot of discussion about symmetry in how you train your body. When we are working with clients, symmetry (in posture and in motion) is something we look at right from the very beginning. But there are some people who don’t think musculoskeletal symmetry matters at all!

Some doctors and other “experts” will tell you that symmetry doesn’t matter at all. You don’t need to worry if your body is obviously not symmetrical. It’s not a big deal unless you’re a bodybuilder who is judged on symmetry. Some people will say that symmetry has no effect on your comfort levels, no effect on your ability to perform in sports, and no effect on your overall quality of life.

This video provides a simple visual explanation for why we think this is line of thinking is flawed and why it’s unhelpful and potentially damaging for most normal people. In it, we talk about why symmetry matters (it does!), when it matters (it doesn’t always!), and how much it matters (it can vary!).

When we’re training clients, we pay close attention to symmetry and work to improve our clients’ asymmetries through thoughtful programming. Often this means including more unilateral work (meaning exercising only one side at a time) and focusing on getting a weaker side to catch up to the other side in terms of strength. It may mean doing more stretching on one side versus the other. It may mean completely abandoning certain exercises (like squats) until more symmetry is built up – thus making bilateral motions safer. It really depends on the individual and the individual differences that the person brings to the training session.

While you may never be perfectly symmetrical, you can at least work to keep your body within certain guidelines so you don’t end up completely off balance and waiting to get injured!



About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.