I can't afford a professional assessment for potential muscle strength imbalances that may affect form. Does anyone know a self-assessment protocol that has worked for them?
Strength balance self-assessment
Google Gray Cook and see if you can find one of his books. I've got Athletic Body in Balance which has been out for a while, but I think he has a new one as well. They are not cheap new - $40 to $50 range. He deals more with differences in flexability in various movements than outright strength differences, but I think that's as important if not more so than strength imbalance alone.
As for things you can do on your own I would recommend unilateral exercises:
One arm press
Single Leg Squats
Single leg glute bridges
Using these exercises in a controlled manner - you're not trying to get a workout here - it's easy to spot differences in range of motion, form, flexibility, coordination, balance, and strength. What I found was that the difference in coordination, blance and flexibility from one side to the other was the big cause of imbalance for me. By concentrating on doing 2x the number of reps with my "weak" side I was able to bring both sides into much better balance in a few months. It really helps to have a friend watch you at first and point out differences in your movement patterns or at least do them in front of a full length mirror and watch closely.
I would also recommend that you run through a number of stretching movements and note differences from one side to the other. Once you've established the patterns you can work on the less flexible areas to bring them in line with their counterparts.
I have huge side-to-side strength and balance issues, mostly anatomical in origin. My left foot points outward about 20 degrees further than my right. I can hardly balance on my left foot alone. It was a big problem for me when I alpine skiied, it was harder to turn right. When cycling big miles a year, my right quad develops much more than my left, and my left hamstring develops much more than my right. I guess when I was born, the doctor was hanging me up for view by only my left leg, and it got permanately tweaked!!!"To be free and to live a free life - that is the most beautiful thing there is."
rnddude - you sound like a textbook case and one that would be a fun challenge to work on. As you've come to realize it's not a pure strength difference that's the issue with most people, it's the lack of ability (coordination, flexibility, balance, etc) that does not allow you to use the strength effectively on one side vs the other.
Serotta94, yeah, I have a major compensation thing happening for sure. What I never could quite understand is the left leg balance problem, whether it was because of a lack of the necessary muscle tone in my left leg, or was it a neurological issue, perhaps as a long since forgotten head injury, or perhaps long-term effects of the 60's....WOW, far out, man!
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