Should I Be Working Both Sides or Just One?

The old “Left side/Right side” dilemma can be cause for heated controversy, but let me give you one man’s opinion on the matter:

Here’s what many trainers say:

“You should only train on ONE side. Period!”

Why?  For several reasons:

One:   You have a “dominant” side.  This side puts your strongest hand in the rear where you can throw your most powerful punches.  The “Orthodox” fight stance means your left hand is up front, and your right hand is in the rear where it can stay poised for a knockout punch:  the Right Cross.   If you’re left-handed, this is reversed and you’re fighting “Southpaw”, where your left hand is kept in the rear.

You want your strongest hand in the rear because that’s where your strongest punch comes from.

Two:   “You will fight the way that you train!”  In a fight, you will want your right hand in the rear, so that means you need to train with it in the rear so that there will never be any confusion as to how you will stand or punch in a fight.  You want to develop all the right habits so that it becomes second nature to you.    Switching sides during training only confuses the issue and your solid habits.

Three:   There is a lot to work on in fighting and in your technique.  You need to have your strong side completely MASTERED, and until you’ve done that, you have no business taking training time away from it and working on the other side.

Four:   It will take longer to develop your skill set trying to work both sides.  Its confusing enough trying to learn the body mechanics, transfer of weight/force/power, proper kicks, guard and fight stance, etc. from just one side. Adding in the other side will erode some of your progress as you get confused and you’ll be left with a weaker side and a stronger side, but no side developed enough for ultimate survival in the ring or on the street.


The above is the argument of many trainers, and they are all valid points and I respect that.  If anyone wants to train that way, it is certainly appropriate and there’s no need to change.

I however have a different opinion (of course!), and some of it is because of my unique physical makeup (which I will allude to), and others may have different reasons why working BOTH sides makes sense for them.

So here they are, lets start!

1.  Bruce Lee felt that your strongest hand, instead of going in the rear, should be up front, where it is going to be doing most of the work.  After all, you will jab far more often than you will throw a cross, so your best hand should be in the driver’s seat.  Also, your strongest hand should be up front to block because typically it is more coordinated than your weakest hand.   So already we have a fly in the ointment about which side should be up front.  Bruce Lee cannot be ignored.

2.  You may suffer an injury in a fight which may necessitate your switching sides.   You could break your front hand on the attacker’s head, and may now have to protect it in the rear.  Your front hand could get injured from a knife or other weapon.  You could suffer damage from kicks to your front leg so that you have to put it in the back.  Your eye could suffer and injury and your vision needs may require you to change your stance.   Now, if you haven’t become proficient on that other side, how comfortable are you going to be?

3.  Training on both sides evens out the wear and tear on your body:  your hands and joints.  If you throw 10,000 jabs during your training lifetime, and 1,000 right crosses, that means your left arm is getting 10 times the workload of your right.  You could develop and overuse injury to your hand, and your shoulder especially.

4.  Working both sides may in some way prevent you from developing conditions based on overuse.  I have two bones fused in my neck.  If I look too long to any one side, it causes migraines.  In a fight stance, your neck is looking to one side more than the other.  Switching sides on a regular basis allows a break in each direction before problems can set in and evens out the stress.

Not all of your limbs get used equally in training.  The front hand seems to punch more, and the rear leg seems to kick more.  Switching to the opposite side gives all body parts a chance to participate equally in the training, so if you’re training in order to maintain a strong, healthy, fit, balanced body, it just makes sense to work both sides as equally as possible.

5.  Sometimes after a technique you might inadvertently land with your “other” leg forward.  You are not in charge of the fight.  Your opponent can and will do things to throw a monkey wrench in your game plan.  You might throw a switch kick completely intent on putting it back forward when you land, but your opponent has moved in on you, and now that leg is stuck to the rear and you must both attack and defend from this position.   Wouldn’t it be nice if you were just as proficient on this side?

So there you have it and the case is made for training both sides equally.  Read thru the arguments and “let each man be fully convinced in his own mind” as the Good Book sayeth.  If you’ve decided you want to train both sides, and your trainer will let you, your next question might be how to go about it.

Here is what I do:  if I’m doing a drill, lets say “5 front push kicks, 5 rear push kicks”, I will simply do the set, then switch stances and do the same set from the other side.

If I’m executing a combination, I might do it first on one side, then on the next, alternating continuously until the bell rings.  Or you might want to do the first half of the round on one side, then switch, whatever.  I try to really equalize the work on each side, but you might not need be quite so anal about it and perhaps you just want 25% of your training to be on your other side.   Whatever works best for you and is your best interest depending on your training needs and your body structure.   While I realize that this little treatise in no masterpiece, I hope it is able to serve as food for thought for those that are wrestling with this issue.

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