Exercise Question & Answer

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Structural Symmetry

Diana ChalouxSorry to ask this question directly as I appreciate your a busy person. Since I have been weight training I have noticed my left pec is growing faster than my right. I have also noticed the right side of my collar bone is slightly higher than the left side. Do you think this could be the cause and if so do you have any ideas on targeting that muscle better. I did post in the forum but had no luck. Thank you for your help.

I can only guess that your asymmetrical development is related to your uneven posture in some way. I would imagine you also have a difference between your right and left triceps.

The best advice I can provide you, would be to consult a physical therapist, orthopedic physician, or skilled kinesiologist, particularly if you have had an old injury that has altered your range of motion, posture, or muscle function. They may prescribe specific stretches and exercises for postural muscles. Performing additional sets for the smaller side has limited value in correcting these sort of asymmetries.

Apart from that, make certain your exercise form is close to symmetrical on your bench, incline and shoulder press. Have a few spotters look at your form for differences on each side. If there is a difference, use only the weight you can manage in symmetrical form, increasing only when you are able to manage symmetrical form. You will need continuous feedback to correct your form at first. Although I suspect you may only have limited success with this approach.

Keep in mind that most people have subtle differences between their right and left sides. I, as many others, have multiple asymmetrically shaped muscles, possibly somewhat similar to your case (see 1990 picture). Somehow, I even ended up with 2 abs on one side and 3 abs on the other side! Next time you see a bodybuilding publication, take a close look at difference between these individuals right and left sides. Even those bodybuilders who are noted for their symmetry have notable differences between sides. They just know how to hide it. Paradoxically physique competitors often appear more symmetrical in asymmetrical poses.

Even more remarkable is Diana Chaloux (pictured at right), an ExRx.net model who happens to have scoliosis. Despite this affliction, in 2008 she won both the WBFF Figure World Championships and the Pro Fitness Model World Championships!


Exercise Tolerance

What is the best way to increase exercise tolerance in certain specific muscles? I've noticed that my quads start burning very quickly, before they have maxed out. (no wonder I'm not a big squat fan). I notice this much more than with other large muscle groups. I know that the quads are the biggest muscle group. Do I just need to get them more used to anaerobic exercise?

For one thing, make sure you are exercising each muscle group regularly, approximately 2 to 3 times a week depending on your experience level (see Dose-Response Curve). You'll also need to progressively increase the reps and weight in a systematic fashion to increase exercise tolerance.

As for the burning sensation, have an expert examine your form during your squats. An exaggerated burning sensation in the quads can be caused by driving your hips forward prematurely or not locking out at the top. Generally, the load should be shifted somewhat proportionally throughout the posterior (back, glutes, calves) and anterior chains (quadriceps). See Squat Torque Force. Incidentally, you should be experiencing far less of a burning sensation on full range compound exercises like squats or leg presses through with complete extension as compared to isolated exercises such as leg extensions. The ACSM as well as other authorities advise performing each exercise through full range on motion. It is acceptable to lock out the knee (essential for joint adaptation) between reps, as long as your joint is healthy and you adhere to essential adaption criteria. During full extension, the workload is momentarily shifted from the muscle to the supporting skeletal structure. This momentary relative relaxation will restore blood flow, enough to move acid (from anaerobic glycolysis) away from the working muscle. A more static contraction occludes blood flow and challenges more muscular endurance, as what is experienced in leg extensions, for example.

The larger muscles (ie Glutes and Quads) will take longer to recuperate between sets (even after just a warmup set). Allow a little bit more rest between sets on the larger muscle groups. Studies demonstrate faster recovery with light muscular activity between sets. Instead of sitting between sets, consider walking around between sets, or swinging your arms about between your upper body exercises. In any situation, your muscles will eventually adapt to an exercise if it is performed regularly. If you feel undue muscular fatigue persists, you could consider performing a lower repetition range with heavier weight (e.g. increasing weight after 10 reps instead of 12 reps).

Just as muscular strength and flexibility is specific to each muscle, muscular endurance is also specific to each muscle and will need to be trained accordingly.

Thanks for the prompt response. I forgot to mention that I live and workout at 7,000 ft altitude. I have heard through the High Altitude Training Center here (part of Northern Arizona University) that it is more difficult to build muscle mass here do to the lower oxygen (can't max out the muscle as much as at sea level), but it is easier to build endurance. Many endurance athletes train here periodically, especially prior to major events at high altitude locations.

If you have been weight training for more than a year, I would also suggest light/heavy workouts, so you work on muscular endurance on workout and muscular strength the next workout. A more advance approached is Undulating Periodization where you have more elaborate variations to your workloads.


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