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Yesterday I tried out a new exercise, the Hatfield Squat, and then further to the Hatfield split-squat.

I really noticed a difference between the two sides when doing the split squat. With my left foot forward, the whole movement felt awkward. I wobbled quite a bit, had to steady the SSB in the middle of the set. With my right foot forward, it felt more controlled, I didn't need to stop, and as a result, it was a good RPE difference (between the two sides). I have done many Bulgarian split squats in the past, never adding as much weight, and they feel a bit wonky but I've never noticed a difference between the two legs as much as I did with these Hatfield squats.

I'm right-hand dominant, and naturally, I believe that I'll be more controlled with the right side of my body.

Questions:

  • How can I tell if the dissimilarities are caused by a muscularity difference between my left and right legs, or by a 'mechanical' difference between the balance I have on my left and right sides?
  • Does the source of the dissimilarities matter?
  • Is there anything I should be doing, in addition to more unilateral work, to improve?
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  • Hopefully, you don't perform the squat the way it was shown in the video with the bar balanced, flopping on the traps without the use of hands.
    – rrirower
    Jun 30 at 21:23
  • @rrirower -- I performed it exactly as shown in the video. I've seen, alternatively, the hands on the rack safeties instead of on the rack uprights, but hands off seems to be what makes this a Hatfield Squat (or a Self-supported SSB Squat).
    – C. Lange
    Jun 30 at 23:40
  • This movement is what sparked the question, but I think it could extend it to all unilateral leg work.
    – C. Lange
    Jun 30 at 23:41
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The simple answer would be to test your strength independently with a mechanically similar exercise that does not require balance and stability—for example, by performing the same exercise on a Smith machine. Whilst this would not necessarily isolate the source of the discrepancy completely, it would provide a good indication of disparities in force production by the prime movers on each side. Video could further be used to assess possible variations in biomechanics (posture, recruitment patterns).

I would argue that the source of the variation might matter, since it can be both limiting and compounding, especially in such cases that the strength disparity is neural. If the source of our imbalance is, for example, an inhibitory mechanism as a consequence of an old injury, any further work we do without reprogramming and rehabilitating the injury will only reinforce the disparity. Compare that scenario with, for example, the more benign one of just having a natural muscular bias. In such a case, due to our limitations and the law of diminishing returns, our normal training would inherently tend to balance the sides.

Finally, unilateral work is excellent for identifying and addressing functional disparities. However, a key component of functional strength—mobility—is so often overlooked. Mobility training and assessment is often the easiest way to identify the functional limitations of a joint.

I hope that makes sense.

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