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How to Use Offset Loading to Boost Muscle Mass

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As you train hard to build muscle and improve your physique you’ll adapt your weights, reps and rest times to continue to force your body to adapt. In the beginning you’ll make great progress and the results will come quickly.

But no matter how hard you try, you’ll eventually reach a plateau. And when you do it’ll feel like you just can’t progress at all. Regular strength training then quickly becomes hard, monotonous and you’ll see little progress.

Luckily there are a number of more advanced weight lifting methods that have been designed just for that reason. And one of those is referred to as offset training.

So if you’re are stuck in a plateau and just cant get out; or if you jut fancy a new routine, then this article is for you.

Read on to find out why this method is great for boosting muscle mass.


What is Offset Loading?

Also referred to as asymmetrical loading, offset training is simply lifting different weights on each side of the body when training an exercise.

This can be done in a number of ways. Firstly you can use different weight dumbbells or even load different plates on to each side of a barbell. Anything you can lift that is uneven is offsetting.

But it doesn’t just have to be weights that are adjusted. You could change grips or even body position. For example a narrow grip on one side and a wider grip one the other whilst performing pull-ups or even performing push-ups with one hand on a small box and the other on the floor.

Make it harder on one side and it counts as offset loading. 

Most of what we do in the gym is bilateral – this means that each side of the body is responsible for lifting the same amount of weight. Squats, military press and bench press are all example of this. It’s different to unilateral training which is performed when you use one side of the body only such as a single arm row or Bulgarian split squat.

To use offset loading you need to pick an exercise that you can perform unilaterally. But instead of only using one side you’ll choose two weights that are of different load.

A good example could be the bicep curl. You’ll choose two dumbbells – one side will have a weight that targets strength gains, and another that is much lighter and targets maintenance or endurance. 



How to Program Offset Loading

Offset loading should supplement your normal program, not replace it. You’ll still aim to complete your base of exercises as you normally would. The only difference is you might take your weights down slightly to account for the additional volume.

Always place the heavier load on the weaker side to promote strength gains. You should choose a weight that fatigues you within a rep range of 6-12 for the most benefits. Don’t go too fast – slow and controlled movements allow you to increase tension through the muscle but also train the core harder too. On the opposite side you can choose a weight that is much lighter and fatigues you within 15-25 reps.

It is important when you add offset training to your program that you maintain good technique throughout. The additional load on one side of the body can lead to unwanted changes in posture and range of motion if you aren’t careful so every care needs to be taken to maintain good form.

As a final point, aim to have only a small difference in weights to begin with. Choosing weights that are only a few pounds difference will allow you to get a ‘feel’ for offset training. Then, as you become more confident you can start to make the difference more prominent until you are happy with the difficulty.



Key Point: Offset loading suits those who train regularly and have a good base of strength, so if you are new to the gym or still learning then this probably isn’t for you.


What Are the Benefits of Offset Loading?

#1. Increased Core Strength

Standard bilateral strength training sometimes results in minimal core activation purely based on how the load is distributed through the body.

But in order to keep your hips and spine in line with offset loading, your abdominal muscles will need to work overtime. The muscles that resist rotation or side bending will have to work hard to preserve your normal spinal alignment – and this will result in some pretty big improvements in strength and aesthetics.

The greater the difference in weights between each side, the greater the demands on stability within the core. For a real killer ab exercise try offset farmer’s walks.

#2. Train Your Imbalances

If you take a good hard look at your body you’ll start to notice things that you’ve never paid really paid much attention to before.

One shoulder might be higher than the other, one of your upper back muscles might have more bulk than the opposite side, or you might notice subtle differences in muscle definition across your arms and chest.

Bilateral training just won’t address these issues, but offset loading can. Aim to work into your imbalances and you’ll quickly start to correct them.

#3. Corrects Disproportionate Strength

Have you ever noticed that when you do train unilaterally one arm or leg can do more than the other? This is called disproportionate strength. Focusing on challenging the weaker side with heaver weights will soon correct your imbalances and help you bust through your plateaus.

#4. Corrects Disproportionate Muscle Mass

Alongside a strength disparity you might find a difference in muscle bulk between sides too – this is often seen in the forearms and upper arms and sometimes in the calves and quads.

You might favor one side of your body for your job, sports you play or even day-to-day tasks. All of this can affect muscle mass. Implementing offset loading helps to correct this and improve aesthetics and symmetry.

#5. Boosts Testosterone

By its very nature, heavy weight lifting increases total and free testosterone levels. Whether you use offset loading or other heavy weight lifting protocols you’ll boost your T levels – this is just one of the more fun ways to do it.


Summary – Offset Loading and Muscle Building

Offset loading is simply when you train each side of the body with different loads. It is an advanced weight lifting methods used by athletes and bodybuilders to boost athleticism.

When correctly applied, offset loading can increase core muscle activation, correct muscular imbalances and even out muscle mass aesthetics.

Aim to implement it into your normal training routine as an ancillary activity. To get the best benefits, complete your standard exercise for a muscle, then place part way through your program. Add in some offset loading on an already trained the muscle.


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