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Muscle Imbalance In Legs Symptoms

Muscle Imbalance in Your Legs: Symptoms of an Inefficient Running Stride

asymmetry in running avoid running injuries exercises and drills rotation Apr 19, 2024

I attended a virtual workshop on “Training and Rehabbing the Running Athlete” this weekend where he presented a recent study by the US army that I thought was super interesting. 


They studied 211 Army Rangers and looked for risk factors associated with injury. One of the most significant finding was that participants with “ankle dorsiflexion ROM [Range of Motion] asymmetry 26.5° were more likely to suffer musculoskeletal injuries by four times and musculoskeletal overuse injuries by 5.1 times than rangers without asymmetry.”

Reference: Teyhen, Deydre S et al. “What Risk Factors Are Associated With Musculoskeletal Injury in US Army Rangers? A Prospective Prognostic Study.” Clinical orthopedics and related research vol. 473,9 (2015): 2948-58. doi:10.1007/s11999-015-4342-6


Not the range of motion specifically but the asymmetry in that range of motion! 


I already had asymmetry on the brain before hearing this because I also filmed all the content about “The Asymmetrical Body” for my Women’s Running Academy Mentorship.


Before I share these strategies with you, I want to lay a few foundations:


1) We are all asymmetric to one degree or another because the organs inside of our body are asymmetric. We can never change that! We can, however, support our bodies so that we can move as efficiently as possible.


2) Your body may not present with this same asymmetry because you’ve layered other compensations on top over the years. I do however believe if you peeled back the layers of the onion, you’d find them under there.


3) It’s not really about having a “strong” and “weak” side, it’s about movement efficiency (how well we rotate, load, stabilize, and propel through our stride).


To me, movement efficiency is one of the main pillars of running economy. The more efficiently we move the less energy each stride takes and we can run faster/longer with the same amount of effort (and less pain). The dream right?? 


I wrote a bit more about some of the background biomechanics of the asymmetrical pattern already, you can check that out on the blog here. Today I want to expand more on what I call the “so what, now what.” A sort of “how to guide” on supporting an asymmetric body.


Here’s just a quick review of this typical asymmetry:

Up top:

It tends to be harder to inhale into the front of your ribs on the right and the back of your ribs on the left. Which tends to turn the torso left and the spine right.


In the middle:

The left ab wall tends to not want to work as hard, the left hip struggles more with internal rotation (loading through stance) and the right hip struggles more with external rotation (toe off, propelling forward). The whole pelvis tends to turn to the right.


Down at the feet:

The right foot tends to be more supinated (rigid, living more on the outside edges) and the left foot tends to be more pronated (flatter, heavier under the big toe)


This last piece is likely what they were seeing play out in the dorsiflexion range of motion asymmetries.

Once could say, let’s work on improving range of motion on the side with less and that will solve all the problems based on that research…. But you know me, I’m always asking “why?” How did they end up asymmetric in the first place?


Yes, that can be part of the solution, but I would argue, in most cases the asymmetry didn’t start at the foot. Direct injury to the foot/ankle complex is an exception to that of course. If we look at the root of this inherent, anatomical, asymmetry we all have, it starts further up the chain with your breathing!


Remember from a few paragraphs ago:  it tends to be harder to inhale into the front of your ribs on the right and the back of your ribs on the left. Which tends to turn the torso left and the spine right.


This is because of the asymmetry of the diaphragm itself (your primary breathing muscle) and the placement of the liver directly under the diaphragm on that side. It causes you to shift your body weight over to your right and be more “exhaled” or compressed all along that side. The left ends up with a little bit more of a rib flare, compression in the back of the ribs, and difficulty loading onto that side. Then it’s a trickle-down effect as noted “in the middle” and “down at the feet” above.


So let’s look at what a top-down approach might look like then…


A Top Down Approach:

At the top, we need more length along the whole right side, space in the back ribs on the left, and connection with the left abdominal wall.


This Left Sucker Punch Rockback breathing will help get that expansion right where most of us need it.



Then in the middle, we need to turn the pelvis back to the left.


This 90-90 with Left Hip Shift will help you do that super subtly (people really tend to try and cheat this one) and includes a bit of what to feel at the feet when you do.



It’s not all just getting on the floor and breathing though. We can integrate these same concepts into your strength work.


This Alternating Chest Press has you inhaling into the right chest wall and left back rib, similar to the Rockback above. Any reciprocal motion in upper body work like this is such low hanging fruit for runners because it’s so simple to apply.


We can bring that turning left at the pelvis idea into our split squats by making simple tweaks to how we do it on one side vs the other like this Split Squat Rotation.

Or we can put all the pieces together - ribcage, hips, and feet in like in this Staggered Stance Hinge with Asymmetric Arms.



If you are like “ummmm, what? how? why?,” I don’t blame you. There’s a reason why we don’t get to this stuff until Week 7 of the Women’s Running Academy Mentorship!


Even still, without understanding all the mechanisms, adding these moves to your strength training can help you "untwist" a bit over time and move better overall.


Want help peeling back those layers, so to speak, and understanding how to train with the needs of your body in mind all while getting stronger overall?


👋 That’s exactly what we do in my Women’s Running Academy Mentorship.


Click here to join the waitlist for the next round.


Here’s a little peek of what’s been going on in the first 4 weeks of round 6…

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