Nobody that works out is perfectly symmetrical. We tend to have strong and weak sides.
When we squat, it is possible to shift your hips more to one side than the other, (looking at your squat from behind will reveal this the most clearly).
This happens because of your body's natural defense mechanism. It is shifting AWAY from a problem. It could be an old injury, or it could just be some tissue restriction that is creating a compensation.
The nervous system automatically tries to protect your body sometimes without you even realizing it. For example, if you have a left ankle injury, your body will tend to shift and put more weight on the right side to protect the left from further injury.
And that is precisely why your body shifts during squats, there's a weakness, imbalance, mobility restriction, or injury on the other side.
This can lead to overtraining on the non-injured or more mobile side of your body because it bears most of your weight as you shift to that side.
An easy way to reveal these imbalances is to perform single side unilateral exercises that challenge both sides equally. I can guarantee that one side will feel more natural and stronger than the other.
Specifically focusing on the lower body, the source of the issue can occur at three major joints, the hips, the knees, and the ankles.
The hips tend to get tight and weak because we sit on them for large portions of the day, creating tension and problems activating muscle tissue. Our feet can lose arch support, creating an unstable base from which we generate all movement. And the knees can take the brunt of the forces pulling from the hips and ankles, creating improper movement patterns and pain.
To summarize, issues at any one area can create muscle imbalances and tension that could be creating compensatory movement patterns, (aka, the hip shift).
I'll now go through some examples of exercises that create more unilateral stability and prevent these compensations.
Single Leg Elevated Glute Bridges
Single Leg Rotations
Single Leg Balance Drills
The "One Size Fits All" Solution
In the absence of targeted strength work, reactive neuromuscular training, or RNT, is excellent at re-training your brain to squat in a more balanced fashion.
Remember that this is mostly a nervous system issue, with activation coming at different levels for your right and left side. Using bands, you can provide feedback in order to overcompensate in the opposite direction, thereby correcting the movement pattern.
In this case, you want to set up the bands so that they are pulling you towards the side you normally shift to. That way, you have feedback to actively shift away from that pattern to re-train your body to squat more symmetrically.
The result is a more balanced, strong, and stable squat. (And you get to correct some movement deficiencies along the way).
If you're having specific issues with your squat or any other movement, feel free to reach out and ask questions. Everyone's situation is individual and can benefit from some personalized attention.
To your good health,
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