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After an injury (broken collarbone, shoulder blade and rib) last year I'm trying to get back up to strength. It's several months since I was cleared to resume normal exercise, so this question is about rebuilding strength rather than injury recovery. While I'm weaker overall than before the exercise, the side I injured has obviously lost more strength than the other side, not helped by it being my non-dominant side I broke. I'm interested in general strength training, rather than bodybuilding or serious lifting - I'm more into cycling and kayaking. The latter in particular benefits from reasonable upper-body strength even if the power comes from lower down.

For many exercises I can do drop sets, extra sets, or even a short extra session on the weak side only (shoulder press, many bicep exercises, shoulder raises, bench rows), but I'm noticing that I can't get back to a more than 1 or 2 wide-grip pull-ups, even though I can do a couple of one-hand pull-ups on the weak side with the other hand gripping my wrist. Anything I've tried (e.g. pull-down machine with various grips) seems to end up working the biceps rather than lats. All the pull-down stations at my gym are pulley- rather than lever-based, which I normally prefer; otherwise the gym is fairly well-equipped.

So how can I rebuild lat strength on the side that's lost it?

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There is such a thing as one-armed lat pulls. If you use a supinated grip on a v handle, or in the middle of a regular handle and sit off center on the bench you can focus on one side. For your left side, put both of your legs to the right of the adjuster pad that sits in your lap(or to the right of the pulley.). For your right side do the opposite. Grab the handle and pull it down and towards your lat(the bar may come to the side of your body at a slight angle). This not only targets one side but is a great exercise in general. One armed dumbbell rows with lighter weights are also a good exercise but I prefer the one armed lat pulls.

Also I'm sure you know, but with muscle assymetry you want to use weights that both your arms can handle. For instance if you're doing a dumbbell press you want to make sure you can complete all the reps with both arms. Even if your strong side can handle more weight, it's best to use light weight that both sides can handle to even out the sides. It would also benefit you to do more unilateral training by using mostly dumbbell exercises or one armed exercises in general as most people always have a stronger side and you don't want one side to do all the work while the other side takes a break. Until you fix your strength, I wouldn't do two many two armed exercises such as bench press, barbell shoulder press, barbell rows, etc..

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  • Thanks - your first para suggests I was close but need to adjust my sitting position and concentrate on my grip. I've been doing extra sets of dumbbell rows on the weak side and I'm sure they've helped, but not enough. I've always preferred dumbbell versions of bench and shoulder presses etc. to barbell versions anyway (partly because I train solo and it's easier to fail to the side, and partly because I feel like they're better for the functional strength I'm after) – Chris H Jan 10 at 15:11

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