Why is One Side of a Body Developing More Than The Other?


question-icon-newI’ve been lifting weights three days a week for about 4 months and I’ve had great results so far. However, the left side of my body seems to be developing more than my right side. The weird thing is that I’m right-handed and I would have imagined that my dominant side would be the one that would become larger. It’s really strange because my left chest, biceps and triceps are more developed and defined than the right side. What can I do to make my body more symmetrical?

answer-icon-newA very interesting phenomenon occurs when a person decides to start a diet and exercise program to improve their overall health and wellness along with making changing in their physique. Because they are now much more focused on working towards a physical goal, such as losing body fat and gaining muscle, they start becoming very conscious of the way they look. This starts with glancing in mirror a few times a day just to see if there are any noticeable changes in the size of their muscles or a reduction of fat around their stomach. In certain individuals, this can lead to a body obsession disorder where they excessively worry about their physique on an hourly basis by staring in the mirror with the ultimate goal of physical perfection which can never be achieved.

The strange thing that happens when you begin to become aware of your physicality and the way your body looks on a daily basis, you can easily start to nitpick and find every single flaw. You might start focusing on the size or definition of your arms, chest or legs and become super critical about every aspect of the way they look. Are they too small, too fat, too soft and not ripped enough? Or, maybe you just don’t like the overall shape and symmetry of the specific body part you’re critiquing and this drives you crazy because you’re not making the progress that you truly want.

The reason I bring up this topic of image obsession is because you might just be so critical about your physique that any tiny difference that you “think” you see, creates frustration. In reality, it might just be that your mind is playing tricks on you and your body is body symmetry is totally fine but since you are so focused with looking at yourself every single day in the mirror, you have lost the ability to really see yourself. This might sound like a weird concept to you but it’s a very real thing that happens to many people in the fitness and bodybuilding world.

bodybuilder-mirrorThe first thing I recommend for you is to ask several of your close friends and family to look at your physique and ask them if they actually see any noticeable difference in the size of your left side versus the right side of your body. Your friends and family are a great source of people to help you since they will be candid enough to really let you know their true feelings. These are the people who are going to give it to you straight and let you really know if there is something wrong. If they indeed confirm that there is a symmetry issue with your body and certain muscle groups are unevenly developed, then you will want to move onto other solutions which I will cover below.

If you feel embarrassed about asking your friends and family members to analyze your physique, then you have another option that should help you. I actually highly recommend doing this and it is to measure yourself to get the basic numbers of how large each body part is. Take baseline circumference measurements of your calves, thighs, hips, stomach, chest, arms and shoulders. Use a tape measure for this and make sure to record the measurements in your workout journal.

Try to find a program where you can track all of these physique measurements on a weekly and monthly basis. Measuring each body part individually will finally show you in clear-cut numbers if you actually have some noticeable size differences between your biceps, triceps and your chest muscles. If after measuring, everything adds up evenly then you know your mind is playing tricks on you and it’s probably best to take some time away from staring at the mirror for hours on end staring at yourself! Try to relax and be happy with the improvements you have made in your physique from all of your hard work and discipline.

However, if the measurements actually show that you have imbalances in the size of your muscle groups and your friends and family are calling you a freak of nature, then there are a few things you can do to help correct this. The first is to train with single limb movements which means you will only be performing an exercise using one hand or one leg at a time. The easiest way to do this is to use dumbbells instead of barbells so you can lift one arm at a time and place a certain amount of tension on the muscle group. In your case, you will want to use heavier weight with more reps and additional sets on your right side when training your biceps, triceps and chest exercises.

For example, if you are doing a biceps workout then you will do dumbbell curls and grab a heavier weight for your right bicep and do a few additional sets to try to build up the muscle to become even with your left side. For triceps, a great exercise to use is cable pushdowns with one hand. For your chest, the best option is to use machines like Hammer Strength where each arm works independently which allows you to press using either your right or left pectorals. This is great because you can do a few extra reps and sets with just your right arm to provide extra stimulation to your right pec and help it grow larger to become even with your left. If you really have a noticeable difference in the size and symmetry of different muscle groups, then training with single limb exercises will be your best bet to help resolve any muscular imbalances.

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  1. I have the same issue. I’ve been doing unilateral chest press for a few days. Will this exercise give me good results?

    • Hi Ron – You should give it at least 12 weeks before noticing any real results in the size of your pecs. Just make sure to do several more repetitions on the weaker/smaller side of your chest. You can also try using heavier weight on the weaker muscle.

      • Is there a way to solve the underlying issue instead of treating it asymptomatically? I feel as though the imbalance starts higher up in my body, like one jaw is more convex than the other and it shaped my skull and my body to be more developed on one side. Or, maybe one leg is shorter so my muscles developed differently. Do you have any tips for correcting the imbalance as a whole instead of working out specific muscles?

        • Hi Brooks – That’s a difficult question since we are not doctors. It’s probably best directed to a physician who is specialized in that area. The process of how each person’s genetics affects different muscle groups and body parts is very interesting. If the process of directly targeting a specific imbalanced muscle group with resistance training is not working to correct the issue, it’s recommended to get feedback from a medical professional who is trained in this area of biology.

  2. I have an actual difference in muscle size. My left side is more muscular than my right side. I’ve started doing as many push-ups as I can do once a day since September. In the beginning, my push-ups felt just normal but since a few weeks ago my left bicep began to feel the pressure of the repeated push-ups and then later I felt it in my right bicep. Does this mean my left bicep is developing faster than my right bicep? If so, how can I fix it?

    • Hi Jake – You should not be feeling any tension in your biceps when you’re doing push-ups. You should only feel the tension in your chest, shoulders and triceps (if you’re doing them correctly). You might be referring to pull-ups, and in that case, you might want to choose an exercise that you can do with one arm at a time like dumbbell rows or machine rows. For your chest, perform one-arm dumbbell press and machine press. Perform a few more repetitions on each set for your weaker side to compensate.

  3. I have exactly same problem as the original question. I’ve been training for 6 months and getting good results, but I’m actually getting better results on my left side. My left arm is 1.5 cm bigger and chest is more developed on left side. I will try the single arm dumbbell techniques you explain, but is there a medical reason for this? Or is it poor technique from the get go?

    • Hi Mick – It’s probably due to genetics versus poor technique. Most people have a side that is stronger and when lifting weights, they will tend to push harder on that dominant side without even thinking about it. This is the reason why it’s important to over-compensate on the weaker side with additional sets/reps in order to bring it up to par with the stronger side.

    • I also have the same problem. The right side of my chest looks bigger than the left side. Which exercises should I do?

      • Hi Abhinav – You can use the exercises listed in this article to help you. You can also look in the comments for recommendations.

  4. The right side of my body is more developed than my left side especially my right pec. Is there any solutions or any treatments to balance my body?

    • Hi Vivek – I recommend following the exercise tips in the article to help you. By over-stimulating the weaker side, you should be able to bring it up much closer in size and development to the more dominant side.

      • I relate to the question in the fact that my dominant hand is my right, but my left seems more lean and muscular from my biceps to my traps. The only thing is that for my triceps, I had a previous injury and I find that my body gets tired or I lose count in reps so I know that’s the reasoning. The answer to this question hit home for me because the obsession of looking in the mirror and not feeling like it’s enough is serious. I was 305 pounds with body fat well over 35%. After high school I made the decision to start working out and over 3.5 years I lost 145 pounds. I’m now at 165 pounds and 20-24% body fat. Over those 3.5 years I was obsessed with looking in the mirror and wanting a body that’s nearly impossible to achieve. Everyone needs to remember you’re your own worst critic and you will nitpick every little detail about yourself until you go insane. You need to realize that if you used to be unhealthy, bigger/overweight then any progress you made to better yourself is the best progress whether or not your one side is bigger than the other. The advice in this article is very useful in the sense that using dumbbells and focusing more on the weaker side is a great start and over a short period of time you’ll notice a change if you keep at it. Always remember to count your reps so you know how many you’re doing on each side. I loved the answer and thanks to ShapeFit for writing it!

  5. As a previous comments stated, I also have greater development in my muscles and it’s in my abs. It is not that they are imbalanced (I know that’s genetics), but one side has a little larger muscles. What machines or exercises would you recommend to resolve the imbalance? Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Nick – This sounds like a genetic issue with your abs. It’s very difficult to train a specific small area of the abs and if you’re doing regular ab exercises and still have this imbalance then it’s probably your genetics. If it was your obliques (love handle area) then you might be able to do more side crunches on one side but if it’s just on the side of your abs in the center of your midsection then it might be difficult to change this.

    • I believe this is caused by situps with my feet under the couch for a brace. I have inadvertently put more pressure on the top of the dominant foot which results in that side getting more of a workout.

  6. My left side of my body is larger in every aspect (chest, back, traps, biceps and triceps)! The problem is that I am stronger on my right side and have been doing unilateral exercises for just about 5 months now. I’m not sure what to do.

    • Hi Matt – You might try doing 2-3 extra sets with your right side for each exercise when using unilateral movements. You will need to overstimulate the smaller side that is not growing as fast and hopefully it will grow up and become symmetrical with the other side.

  7. I’m left handed. I have my left arm and tricep more developed than my right side. But my right chest is more developed than my left side. I have been trying unilateral movements but I feel a stretch on my shoulder instead of my chest. I think this is due to the imbalance of my more developed left arm and tricep.

  8. I’m a football player and I have just started going to the gym. Whenever I do push-ups and pull-ups, my left side gets more pumped (tricep, chest, back) and especially when I do dips it feels like there is more pressure on my left shoulder. My left shoulder is smaller than my right one. Should I go heavy and use high reps on my left or on my right side to compensate?

    • Hi Gautam – You want to focus on the side of your body that is smaller than the other. So, if your left side lacks the size of your right, then focus on doing extra sets and reps for the side that needs extra work to become symmetrical with the other side.

      • I found this article very helpful but my problem is a little bit different. I’m doing HIIT plus cardio workouts for 5-6 months but now I’m noticing that my right leg looks leaner than my left one and my left one looks more bulky. I need a suggestion on how to fix this imbalance.

        • Hi Durha – This imbalance might have to do with your weight lifting regimen. What does your weight training workouts consist of (exercises, reps, sets)?

  9. My entire left side of my body is bigger than my right side (left chest, bicep and leg). My left hand is also bigger than my right hand. My dominant hand is my right one.

    • Hi Raj – You might need to schedule an appointment with your doctor to make sure everything is fine since that does not sound normal. Your doctor might need to do some blood work to check your hormone levels to look for any abnormalities.

  10. I am having the same issue. I have always noticed that my left pec (chest) was a little bigger (right handed). I can feel it with my hands, so it is not just visual. Same with my biceps. I have noticed that my left bicep and forearm are more stimulated after working out. For example, if I put my arms up as if to touch my shoulders, my left hand can just almost touch my shoulder, whereas my right hand can touch much easier. Basically, my left side is getting a better pump than my right, even though I am right handed. I always try and do exercises that are independent like dumbbells. I wonder if switching to exercises that use both arms at the same time would be better?

    • Hi WhillB – Yes, it might be a good idea to switch to exercises that use both arms at the same just to see if that helps. When in doubt, mix things up (exercises, machines, techniques) to see what produces the best results.

  11. I’m strong on the left side of my body. I try to workout more, but my right side of my body has more fat than the other. What can I do?

  12. I have same issue, in that my entire left torso is smaller than my right side. Where I really notice it is the distance between my nipple and lats on the left side which is noticeably smaller than the right. I have read a bunch on this, and everyone seems to say to train harder (more weight, more reps, etc) on the smaller side. My issue with this is that I train to almost failure on the upper end of each set, so adding more weight/reps to the weak side, will result in me not being able to finish the set. It would seem that the only way to do this, would be to undertrain the bigger side, as opposed to overtrain the smaller side. Thoughts?

    • Hi Chris – The best way to train your smaller side is to use Hammer Strength machines (if your gym has them). This is the best type of equipment for being able to independently train one side of the body or any specific muscle group that needs to be built up for overall symmetry.

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