The human body is a wonderful work of design, its multiple systems all function in collaboration, every second of every day. The systems interact with each other, signaling, up regulating, down regulating adjusting to adapt the human to the outside or inside environment. From the outside we as humans look very symmetrical we have a left and a right side, but if you look close enough you can see the asymmetries that make us who we are.
Now let's take a trip inside the human body and we can really see the differences, these asymmetries drive certain patterns of human life, these patterns give us the ability to function, move, perform exercise. But when we get stuck in patterns it becomes detrimental to the system, the system as a whole needs flow, it looks for alternating movement.
Looking inside of the human body starting at the top we have two hemispheres of the brain that are inherently different, the left brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side controls the left. The left brain is known for analytic thought, logic, language (Wernicke’s and Broca’ Area), reasoning, science, math, number skills, the right side is known for imagination, creativity, art, insight, holistic thought, musical awareness, and more
. That is at the command center of the human body, think of all the tasks that are predominantly one sided, things we do everyday that we use the same patterns over and over. Majority of the people on this earth are right hand dominant, and all people are right side dominant (except for people with situs inversus).
When we have our right patterning our predominance is our left brain, and as we continue to use the same patterning over and over we can become more one hemisphere dominant for motor control and movement.
Moving down into the thorax this is where things get crazy, the left and right side are completely different the left side houses a heart (sits more to the left), two lobes of lung, underneath the lung and heart is a spleen, on the right side we have 3 lobes of lungs, a giant liver that anchors to the spine and directs us into our right oriented/dominant patterning. Also driving us into the right dominant pattern is the attachment of the diaphragm on the right has a bigger crura, and extends lower on the lumbar spine (vertebrae 1-3) than on the left.
This leads to better positioning of the right diaphragm for respiration. This also allows the right ab wall to be the stronger side and the weaker side on the left further driving us into the right dominant patterning. This affects the patterning up the chain influencing the ribcage, the shoulders, scapula and even the cranium and also goes down the chain and can affect the hips, femurs, knees, feet. As we go through our fitness programs and create new ones we have to be aware of the bodies underlying asymmetrical design.
With our underlying asymmetries we still need to live life and function in the world, and it does not care about our tendencies to be more dominant on the right side. But driving the system into one pattern over and over again will compromise the overall function of the system and that's when we can start to see issues. The body will turn to compensatory actions to figure out how to walk, breathe and function, leading to possibly further issues.
A prime example for me is Osgood-Schlatter on my right side, as a way to stay stable and supported on my right the tendon had to get stronger, and as I overloaded my right side with living, and some specific sports I developed the overgrowth of tissue causing inflammation and pain.
You can see patterns of compensation all over as you look, tibia's/fibula's, femurs, humerus externally or internally rotating, hips typing forward or back, scoliosis, ribcage rotation, neck rotations. Another thing that the asymmetrical design can create is dysfunctional patterns that creates constant tension on the autonomic nervous system, driving it into a sympathetic state majority of the time and ramping up systems that need to learn how to shut off.
Having this design makes looking at programming a bit different than traditionally, when prescribing exercises we now have to respect the asymmetries in training. Ever perform and exercise and think that was easier with one arm, or one leg in front, well that is your pattern working.
We have differently functioning left and right sides that will need different needs depending on the person. We need to rebalance the right dominant and oriented system and patterning, we can do this by activating the left abdominal wall to pull the ribcage back to the left and over to the left to get actual left lateralization of the body. This takes the demand off of the muscles on the right demand and allows for alternating movement.
This requires a more conscious lifter/ exercise to pay attention to position and make sure they are feeling the correct muscles activate when lifting to get the most out of the exercise. Understanding the asymmetrical body can also help people understand overuse injuries and possible problems within the musculoskeletal system, like tightness, impingement, tendonitis etc.