How to Balance out a body that uses one side excessively in work or sport… especially for my tennis and golfers!
Do you play a sport or have a job that uses one side of your body over and over and over?
This cute guy sure does- he is a tennis player and has consistent low back soreness on the side of his body that holds that racquet. He is right handed, and serves right handed, volleys right handed, and even one hand backhands with his right hand.
That right side of the body gets tons of workload as he plays 3-4x/week, and his left side not nearly the volume. The low back and hip on the right side are sore nearly daily, with some occasional neck and elbow stuff thrown in.
What to do in this situation?
Some people might suggest stopping playing tennis, or decreasing the volume of matches. When he plays singles, the games can last 90 minutes or longer. Should I suggest shortening the time he is on the court?
I have tried for months to get both sides of his body to balance out and work equally. The other day, I tagged along with him to the gym. I fully gave up trying to get both sides to do the same amount of work and had him ONLY work the left side that wasn’t working nearly as hard or as frequently. The right side has engaged enough, and it was time to fully concentrate on the left side.
By that I mean: Exclusively concentrate on the left side!
(If you are left handed, simply switch the directions to using your right hand.) The following is what we tried with cable weights:
One Arm Lat Pulldown in Squat
Drop down into a squat, and grab both handles for stability. However, ONLY pull down the left side feeling the left latissimus dorsi muscle engage all the way from the mid shoulder blade area to the top of the hip.
Up Chop on the Left Side Only
Break down into a squat, and use the hip to rotate and pivot onto what my golf instructor would call my “ballerina toe” as my arms rise diagonally above my head.
Remember, all good rotational movements are started with hips and oh-by-the-way-you-have arms. Meaning, don’t try to pull that handle up with your arms…let your hips do the rotation and feel it in the left hip flexor and glute.
Kettlebell (or dumbbell if you need to use that) Windmill
Point the right toe sideways, and the left toe is at a 90 degree angle to the right foot.
This exercise is similar to Triangle in yoga, so pop the left hip out and lift your kettlebell up so that you have your arm, wrist, and elbow straight with your fingers pointing to the ceiling. We are really targeting the lat dorsi on the left side again, and look up towards the kettlebell so you know where in space it is at all times. Lean down towards your right toes, and then use your snake breathing (teeth together, tongue against the back of your teeth, exhale hard thru your teeth to make a hissing sound) and swing motion using your glutes to bring your torso back up. Your arm stays in the air at all times! Try for 30 seconds, then 1 minute, then finally 90 seconds as a goal.
Lateral bear crawl
Side view. Move so that you are making the left hip and left glute work exclusively. Push through the left heel as you move to the right.
Lateral bear crawl front view…
Finally, notice when you find yourself shifting your weight on the naturally strong side. This is the way Ian started out his workout, with all of his weight on the right side. This is a big nonverbal clue to me that the left side isn’t working and we need to get it to kick in! If you find yourself favoring one side while you are standing, feel free to shift the weight back onto both feet and let both sides of your body have the opportunity to work equally!
I am happy to report that although the right side soreness wasn’t completely eradicated, he felt significantly better later in the day. I think we are on the right track!
My tennis, racquetball, pickleball, badminton, and squash players of the world as well as my golfers need to concentrate on the other side of the body…maybe exclusively (?) to catch it up and balance it out!
Let me know your strategy to keep you out on the links or on the court in the comments below!