One of the biggest drawbacks to maintaining your athletic ability and physical comfort as you age: one side of your body becomes too dominant. It works harder than the same tissues on the other side. The shoulder on your dominant side has more power, the dominant leg can take a longer and stronger step.
This is true of muscles as well, but they are easier to change with training.
The adaption of white tissues takes longer to adapt, since they have so much less blood flow than juicy red muscle.
When a tendon or ligament on one side starts putting out more effort, the less dominant white tissues on the other side begin to get weaker. They even contract, or shrink. Over time, they become shorter than the more dominant tissues. Unless you deliberately train to prevent damaging dominance, there may be 2 or even 3 inches of difference in range of motion by the time you hit your mid-20s. By the time you turn 40, the difference will be much more pronounced. The difference will only increase and starts the series of aches and pains that often begin to plague folks in their middle age.
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Do you have a dominant side?
The easiest way is to be assessed by a personal trainer. But you can also assess yourself. Tape a blank 8-by-10 piece of paper to a wall at hand level. Now cover the fingertips of one hand with colored chalk. Keeping both heels on the floor, reach as high as you can and touch your chalked fingertips to the piece of paper. Now do the same with the other hand.
Is there more than a 2-inch difference in the chalk marks? If so, make reaching up with the less dominant arm part of your daily training program. It may take months to stretch out and equalize the white tissues on one side, but don’t give up. Concentrate on using both arms, not just one.
To find if one leg or hip is too dominant, practice the “hopping” exercise. Do each leg on a different day, to be sure both are rested. Start by hopping across a long and even room, such as a basketball court. Hop until you can’t, counting the number you’ve recorded. The next day, do the same on the other leg, again counting the hops. If you can do more than a dozen on one leg than the other, that’s proof of an imbalance.
Do the hopping exercise on the weaker leg two days a week. Test the more dominant leg one day a week. When you can muster the same number of hops on both legs, you have eliminated the weakness on one side. This also helps equalize the strength of each glute. The butt is the largest, most powerful muscle of the body, so no athlete wants an imbalance of strength in the tendons that extend from it.
But the best part of equalizing your white tissues is the improvement it will make in your athletic ability. You may know that you’re a better athlete than your performance shows. Getting rid of as much white tissue dominance as possible will allow you to prove it.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly, which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.