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“You’re better off being tight on both sides than loose on one and tight on the other”.
No this wasn’t some worldly advice passed on from father to son.
Rather it was said by an instructor on a course years ago, and it was something that really hit home for me.
To some people it may seem kind of obvious, but as a young trainer I hadn’t really considered what would be happening to the body if there was a major imbalance in muscle strength and length on either side of the body.
Say if one hip or hamstring was significantly tighter than the other.
How it would pull the spine around or mess up the alignment of the hips.
Various structures that were never meant to meet would start bumping and grinding into each other and not in an RnB kind of way.
But in a Black & Decker, somethings getting wrecked kinda way.
This difference in sides also often shows as a large difference in strength.
It can feel like one leg or arm is stronger than the other side.
In reality this imbalance isn’t necessarily due to a difference in muscle mass, but due to a lack of stability.
The body hates instability.
If it senses that a joint is unstable or misaligned the nervous system will down regulate the drive to those muscles.
Basically the hardware might be there but there’s no electricity being put through to make it work well.
Why this situation happens in the first place can be down to a number of different factors.
But a common factor is that we’re not as balanced looking as we appear.
Yep on the outside, everything is even stevens, equal numbers of arms and legs on each side.
But on the inside, it’s a different story.
We have a liver on one side, vena cava on the other. The diaphragm has different connections on each side and a host of other fun factors.
This is all an elaborate way of me introducing a very simple looking exercise to you.
The Cross Body Kettlebell Pass (not the sexiest of names I know).
Reasons I like it.
A lot of gym based work is sagittal plane….that’s a fancy pants way of saying you just move forwards and back.
This introduces a level of side to stability.
The foot is on the floor so the muscles get to work in a way that has a great carry over to performance, with the butt and stomach muscles really having to work together as team.
The effort is low level. It doesn’t produce soreness or nasties so can be trained very often. I like including it in warm ups or as a filler exercise between sets of more challenging upper body work.
Obviously you don’t have to use a kettlebell, a dumbbell is also great. I just like the centralised mass of a kettlebell a little more than a dumbbell.
But you can do this anywhere….literally.
I’ve done it using a back pack for weight whilst my wife took our daughter to the loo at a museum….(I was bored and determined not to just stare at my phone).
Things to remember.
Keep the whole foot flat on the floor. It may want to wobble around, but keep the heel of the foot and the forefoot planted.
Sit back into the hip. You should feel the glute working on the supporting leg, this is the main stabiliser of the knee.
Fully take the weight across your body. Don’t do little diddy passes in front of the body.
Don’t rush the passes either.
Control them and boss the movement, this is what will really get you working.
Start with a light(ish) weight. 8kg can be challenging for many people.
For reps, 5 passes each direction makes a good starting point. If 10 can be achieved with perfect form then look to up the weight.
Pay attention and see if you can feel a side to difference.
Is one side more wobbly, is it easier to feel the glutes working on one side to the other?
If so, it’s a smart move to always start with the weaker side and match the reps on the stronger side.
So if you can only do 4 good reps on your left, only do 4 reps on your right even if that feels easy.
This will let any differences start to minimise.
Give it a whirl and see what you reckon.