Building your body one side at a time might seem shockingly asymmetrical.
We’re usually told to keep our reps even, keep our bodies aligned and balanced under the weights, and make sure we don’t build up one side more than the other.
Even when doing a cardio workout, instead of bodybuilding, we’re usually advised to do the mirror image of the instructor – or the workout video – half the time, and align our right sides to their right sides (seemingly moving the opposite way) the other half of the time. That way the dominant side of an instructor – or the poor editing of a workout video – doesn’t affect our own workout.
But recovering from an injury can change the philosophy of giving equal love to both halves of your body when training.
Physical therapy is used by athletes to ease their way back into their sports when they sustain an injury. Not re-injuring the damaged body part is key, and yet, without working the injured part itself, the athlete can suffer a loss of localized strength and endurance.
An asymmetrical body, especially for a bodybuilder, is then a very real worry.
When a bodybuilder sustains an injury, for example, to a muscle in his arm, his physical therapy during recovery will indeed attempt to separate out the two halves of his body. If he is lifting a weight with both arms, the uninjured arm will attempt to take up some slack for the injured arm whether he perceives it or not.
The weight will not be equally distributed. This throws off his balance, his training, and his recovery. It also paves the way for another injury.
So, as part of his physical therapy, he needs to train one arm at a time.
This is called “training unilaterally,” and it’s a trick of physical therapy to let the injured arm catch up. To avoid bulking up his uninjured arm at a different rate, he should train the injured arm first. Let the injured arm dictate the number of reps, and do not exceed the repetitions on the opposite side.
Training unilaterally, and yet equitably, keeps the body in balance, and reduces the chances of a second injury to the recovering body part.
But remember, too, that while isolating a muscle, or muscle group, to strengthen it will restore it to full function, the recovering musculature is part of the larger whole of an entire body. The injured muscles need to regain their strength and flexibility, but they also need to reintroduce themselves to the coordination of their neighboring muscles.
Free weight and body weight movements will help a recovering body part function with non-injured muscles. Physical therapy will introduce body weight movements to ensure that the recovering body part relearns its role in the body’s movements as a whole.
Training in this way after an injury will do something even more important for a bodybuilder – it will allow him to keep his confidence in his body. An injury can be emotionally rattling, and testing the body’s limits afterwards requires patience and baby steps. Building a muscle back up, keeping the body balanced, and reintroducing the muscle to the rest of the body is a good method of physical therapy that helps an athlete recover, physically and mentally.
Physical therapy can be a big aid in a speedy and safe recovery. If you are in the Philadelphia area and injured, consider the Fast Track Physical Therapy center for physical therapy in Philadelphia.