How to Fix Uneven Muscle Growth in Bodybuilding

Beginners Often Face This Issue

Strong man's arm
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Uneven muscle growth, or having muscles on one side of the body grow more than on the other, is a normal problem in bodybuilding that beginners who are just getting started encounter. Here are several recommendations on how to deal with this problem, with sample bodybuilding routines on how to fix an uneven chest and shoulders.


Check Your Form

The first thing to do is check your form. When you are a beginner, the stronger side (typically the right one if you are right-handed, though this is not always the case) tends to do more work than the other one, resulting in disproportionate development.

Ways to fix this:

  • Practice perfect form: By ensuring proper form not only do you ensure that the targeted muscles are the ones doing the work but also that both sides are putting an equal amount of force as the movement is performed, thus preventing imbalance.
     
  • Concentrate on activating the muscles of the weak side: When performing the movement, really concentrate on using and squeezing the muscles of your weak side to move the weight. This extra concentration will ensure that your dominant side is not the one doing the work.
     
  • Perform extra sets of unilateral movements to only target the underdeveloped area: Doing a few extra sets that solely focus on your weak side will teach your body to better activate the muscle fibers of that side.


Sample Bodybuilding Routines That Address Imbalances

 

Chest Routine:

  • Superset:
  • Incline bench press, four sets of eight to 12 repeats
  • Unilateral dumbbell press, four sets of eight to 12 repeats; ensure that the dumbbell is not too heavy because you need to balance yourself

    Superset:
  • Chest dips, three sets of eight to 12 repeats
  • Unilateral incline flyes, three sets of eight to 12 repeats


Shoulder Routine

 

  • Superset:
  • Unilateral lateral raise, three sets of 12 to 15 repeats
  • Upright rows, three sets of eight to 12 repeats

 

  • Superset:
  • Bent-over laterals, three sets of 10 to 12 repeats
  • Unilateral shoulder dumbbell press, three sets of 12 to 15 repeats


    Routine Notes: Only rest 1 minute in between supersets and watch those lagging areas grow.
     


    Whole Side of Body Is Uneven
     

    If one side of the body is visibly more developed than the other, as often happens to athletes who practice sports like bowling, where one side is used predominantly, dedicate whole workouts to exercising only the weak side.

    The sample bodybuilding workouts below illustrate how to set up a unilateral bodybuilding routine. In this example the left side of the body is targeted, assuming the right side is the more developed one. 

    Workout A: Chest/back/biceps/triceps (Monday)

    Workout B: Delts/thighs/hamstrings/calves (Tuesday)

    Off (Wednesday)

    Workout C: Chest/back/biceps/triceps (Thursday)

    Workout D: Delts/thighs/hamstrings/calves (Friday)

    Off (Weekend)

    Workouts A and B train both sides of the body equally, while workouts C and D should just consist of unilateral movements for the left side only. See the sample unilateral workouts below:

    Workout C:

    • Unilateral incline dumbbell press, four sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral flat dumbbell press, four sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral pulldown (use a pulley), four sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral dumbbell row, four sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Concentration curl, three sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Hammer curl, three sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Triceps pushdown (use pulley; palm of hand facing down), three sets of eight to 12 repeats


    Workout D:​​

    • Unilateral shoulder press, three sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral rear delt machine, three sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral lateral raise, two sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Lunges (left side only), four sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral leg press (left side only), three sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral leg extensions, two sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral leg curls, four sets of eight to 12 repeats
    • Unilateral calf press, three sets of eight to 12 repeats


    Workout Notes: Only rest 1 minute in between sets.

     

    About the Author

     

    Hugo Rivera, About.com's Bodybuilding Guide and ISSA certified fitness trainer, is a nationally known best-selling author of eight books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men," "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women," "The Hardgainer's Bodybuilding Handbook" and his self published e-book, "Body Re-Engineering." Rivera is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion.

    Learn more about Hugo Rivera.