I have an asymmetrical back, it is not really visible when relaxed, but I noticed that I can easily contract and pop up my right deltoid while the left one, is impossible.

A doctor told me that after a while training I would do improvements on my left deltoid, but after two years I still cannot pop it up. Furthermore I noticed when deadlifting that my asymmetry starts being visible, since the contraction clearly shows more on my right side. However, during a dumbbell bench press or military press, I never noticed a clearly weak left side.

I always bench pressed with dumbbells, but after feeling a barbel bench press I really want to do it more often. I know that most people is not perfectly symmetrical, but I am concerned about one day having an unbalanced back when relaxed.

The question is How should I structure my workouts to ensure a proper balance? Is there anything I can do to improve my symmetry when contracted? Should I always avoid barbells?

  • 1
    Although I don't have this particular issue and considering that this is a very specific issue which may need to be diagnosed to enable somebody to give advice, I'm curious to know the suggestions and answers.
    – Mehrad
    Nov 1, 2013 at 22:28
  • FYI I read somewhere that dumbbells are better than barbells for cases like mine, but I wanted some confirmation. Specially since doing a barbell bench every once in a while press feels so great. Nov 2, 2013 at 8:51
  • 1
    To be specific, the deltoids are considered shoulder, not back muscles.
    – JohnP
    Feb 23 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


The symmetry problem impacts a lot of people. Anyone who has an injury generally only has it on one side of their body (a torn ACL in the right knee, a torn rotator on the left from a couple of years ago, etc). So a lot of standard training paradigms apply to you, as you noted in your question.

Barbells are fantastic strength training tools, arguably the best, but if not augmented they can allow for imbalanced to persist and if you keep stacking on the weight eventually bad form will compound with high load and you'll be injury prone, or at minimum not able to advance.

I would invest in a pair of gymnast rings and start working on your front and back (legs tucked) levers. Actually, start working on the support position, and then work on your levers. Your shoulders, individually, will need to support you through full ranges of motion and unlike using a bar, there is nowhere for an imbalance to hide.

There are a host of other ring exercises you can do including dips, muscle ups, and if you're a true beast the iron cross which will exert ~5x your bodyweight on each shoulder. Gymnast rings will put you on a path to shoulder strength and stability that I really don't think can be rivaled in any other way. Even better, they move, so most people don't run into joint pain as your wrists can rotate around.

Barbells are great and form a platform of strength training that is (quite properly) well regarded. But don't be that person in the squat rack twisting to one side, or the guy pressing with the bar always rising a little more on one side before the other catches up. Get balanced.

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