Offset Load Training

weight plates

Introduction

Offset load training is a training approach in which different loads are used on the right and left sides of the body during an exercise, challenging the body to adjust. If you have ever dealt with clients who have demonstrated asymmetry in strength or power between one side of the body and the other, or who have visible differences in muscle mass when comparing each side, and have addressed their asymmetry solely with isolated unilateral movements, you can implement offset load training as a very effective way to break through training plateaus and to address accumulated asymmetry between the right and left sides of the body. Offset load training is not only more challenging than isolated unilateral exercises, it also results in more neural connections and greater kinetic efficiency.

Asymmetries in strength or muscle development most commonly result from natural dominance on one side, but they can also emerge as a result of injury. During bilateral training, the stronger side will always compensate for the weaker one by taking on more of the load, so the weaker side remains at a disadvantage. In contrast, unilateral and offset movements force each side of the body to bear the load fully and independently, effectively forcing the weaker side to work. Over time, differences in strength between each side are diminished as a result of this type of training.

Benefits Of Offset Load Training

One of the greatest benefits of offset load training is greater trunk stability and strength. Any time you perform a unilateral or offset movement (think of using a shovel), you activate your abdominal muscles in order to resist rotational forces and maintain a neutral spine. Another benefit of offset load training is that offset exercises challenge the nervous system to adapt to the unequal weight distribution by recruiting muscles in a coordinated fashion to maintain balance. You might be surprised by how much your client’s overall strength will increase as a result of improved conditioning in the smaller stabilizing muscles of the trunk. This is because enhanced balance and trunk strength stabilize the extremities and transfer power to them. In other words, if the muscles in the trunk are more efficient at stabilizing the spine, the limbs will benefit from greater power.

How To Add Offset Load Training To A Client’s Regimen

Offset load training works with most barbell and dumbbell movements and can be easily incorporated into a client’s training regimen. You can use this form of training as an adjunct to bilateral movements in a client’s plan. When selecting weights, make sure the difference in weights between sides is moderate, and keep the rep range around eight to twelve reps. Instead of handing dumbbells to your client, have the client lift them so that the muscles of the trunk will become activated even before the exercise is performed. If you are using a barbell, load each side with a different number of plates. If using the double cable assembly, set the pins at different weights. Be sure to monitor your client closely during this type of training, especially those relatively new to lifting weights who have poor balance and coordination.

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