I noticed that one of my arms is definitely weaker than the other. What’s the best way to make up for this difference in strength?

“It’s pretty common to have a discrepancy between sides,” says Julia Ladewski, C.S.C.S., a strength coach based in Highland, IN. Her favorite way to even things out? Use dumbbells for big movements like shoulder presses, flat presses, and rows.

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“Using dumbbells forces the weaker side to stabilize, control, and lift the weight; with barbells, the load is shared with the stronger side, which typically compensates and takes over.” It’s also important to focus on the muscle and its movement—not just the amount of weight you can lift, she adds.

“Try doing isolation exercises such as single-arm presses, chest flyes, lateral raises, and single-arm rows for the shoulder/back/chest. For the arms, single-arm curls, triceps extensions, and pushdowns are also options.”

Concentrate on the muscle contraction at the peak of the movement, and your form throughout. “If you feel like the difference is drastic, do an extra set on the weaker side,” says Ladewski.

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