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Is symmetry all that important for performance?

01/07/2019 by Pivotal Motion
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Baseball Player

Most sports have a degree of asymmetry. Take baseball and cricket for example – throwers in these sports have a dominant arm. This arm will undergo repetition and a higher volume of training. This can lead the throwing arm developing stronger movement patterns and muscles. Whilst is it a fact that asymmetries exist in sport, is this necessarily a bad thing? Is symmetry all that important for optimum performance in sport?

The answer isn’t black and white, unfortunately. There is both a right and wrong answer. Firstly, what sport is in question? As mentioned earlier, there are sports where an obvious asymmetry is expected and cultivated. Here at Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy, we have a long history with baseball and as such, let’s address asymmetries in baseball further.

The throwing arm in baseball is one of the most analysed and researched asymmetries in sport. As the ability to perform a high velocity throw with accuracy is essential to optimum performance, the dominant throwing arm of the player will have improvements in strength, movement patterns, co-ordination and fast twitch muscle fibres.

Beyond that, baseballers will also have asymmetry further down the kinetic chain, with a dominant side prevalent in the mid and lower back, glutes and legs. Unless this asymmetry is causing a notably obvious detriment (performance wise or symptom wise), there is no issue in having an obvious dominance on one side of the body relative to the other.  

In contrast, a sport like swimming requires a much greater degree of symmetry. Whilst it is likely that a swimmer will still innately have a side to side dominance, the degree of asymmetry will be far less than that of a baseballer. As swimmers require the use of both sides of their body, albeit at differing times and intervals, an asymmetry would impair their capacity for optimum performance and as such, is not ideal.

The overarching theme here is to not specifically focus on symmetry as the ultimate goal of your training program. Other principles of exercise should be addressed prior to symmetry, including functional relevance to the sport in question and the FITT principle. A thorough analysis of the requirements of your sport should determine how important the concept of symmetry should be in your exercise program. Remember, if your sport is mainly unilateral (one-sided) and you use your dominant side to a far greater extent than your non-dominant side, it is not essential to address asymmetries. If your sport requires the use of both sides of your body to an almost equal amount, address asymmetries in your training program.

If you have any further queries about these principles, book in to see one of our dedicated physiotherapists today.

 

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