Last updated on April 25th, 2023 at 07:22 am
Imbalances are part of life. None of us sits or stands perfectly. Most of us play a sport, game, or hobby that favors one side over the other. And anyone who trains with weights knows they have more strength and mobility on one side than the other.
Our body does what it can to compensate for these imbalances in the short term. But over the long haul, this compensation can create pain and injury. It robs us of performance. And it makes getting older no fun at all!
The good news is that if you are reading this review, you are probably already putting time aside each day to strengthen your body. The bad news is that most strength training programs do nothing to address these imbalances. In fact, many of them (even well-designed ones) can make them worse!
That’s where MAPS Symmetry, a new strength training program from the guys over at Mind Pump, comes in.
What Is MAPS Symmetry?
MAPS Symmetry is a resistance training program that combines isometrics, unilateral, and traditional training to build strength and improve your aesthetics in a way that corrects harmful imbalances in your physique. It’s programmed across 4 unique phases and can be done at home or in a commercial gym.
I also want to be clear that MAPS Symmetry is much more than a way to correct imbalances. I was surprised not only by my strength gains during this program but also by how much I enjoyed this unique approach to resistance training!
I believe MAPS Symmetry should be a mandatory once-a-year (or more!) addition to your weight-lifting routine. It not only produces significant improvements in correcting imbalances, but it enhances any program you run after it by equipping your body to be stronger, more stable, and more effective.
When combined with regular use of MAPS Prime (check out my full review here), you have everything you need to keep your body healthy, strong, and injury free for the long haul!
Lastly, MAPS Symmetry is one of the few programs you could run continually without harm. That is not the case for most other programs (the only other MAPS program I can say this about is MAPS Performance, and to be honest, I found Symmetry much more enjoyable!).
Who Should Use MAPS Symmetry?
I had a more challenging time coming up with an answer to who shouldn’t run this program than I did with a list of people who should.
Several of the MAPS programs are designed for the general population. MAPS Anabolic, for example, is a program that I recommend that anyone training with weights own and use. But most of them are tailored to specific goals.
Want to compete in a powerlifting meet? MAPS Powerlift is for you. Want to compete in an obstacle course race? MAPS OCR is the way to go. Want to focus on your looks and address slow-to-respond body parts? MAPS Aesthetic is the right choice.
MAPS Symmetry is different. It addresses goals that we all have! It focuses on challenges present in every active adult.
But I hate broad statements like that. I’m always skeptical when someone tells me I should buy something because it’s perfect for everyone, including me.
Nothing is ever perfect for everyone! So let’s look at a few groups of people and why they might benefit from MAPS Symmetry.
Anyone who trains with a barbell
Almost all barbell training is bilateral. That’s a fancy way of saying you are using both limbs simultaneously. When pressing, you use both arms. Squatting uses both legs. Almost all barbell movements are this way.
When you train bilaterally, your body does a great job moving the weight when you ask it to. What it doesn’t do a great job of is using both sides of your body equally.
Your body is naturally stronger and more mobile on one side than the other. This is true for 99% of people, including you! So your body naturally shifts more of the load to your stronger side.
You may not even feel this happening (most don’t), but it does. Record yourself doing a very heavy press. I’ll bet you see at the top of the movement that one hand gets to the top before the other. This is your stronger side. This is visible evidence of just one of many imbalances you already have!
When your body compensates in this way over time, it creates and fortifies imbalances. In the long term, these imbalances sap performance and lead to injury and pain.
The best way to combat this as you age is to prevent and correct it in the first place. That’s where running MAPS Symmetry one to two times a year comes in. It’s the perfect way to continue to get stronger (and you WILL get stronger) and, at the same time, correct the imbalances inherent in your body!
Anyone That Plays a Sport
Very few sports work your body in an equally balanced way. Golf is highly rotational in one direction. Rowing favors the posterior chain (your back) over the anterior (your front). In racquet sports, one hand holds the racquet, and the other does not. I could go on, but I’m guessing you get the idea.
I’m a competitive disc golfer. I’ve played that sport several times a week for almost 20 years. Over that time, I’ve developed visible imbalances. One side of my rib cage extends further than the other. I can rotate my thoracic spine much further to the right than the left. I have pain in one hip and one knee. At 51 years old, this isn’t going to serve me well for much longer!
After running through MAPS Symmetry twice, I’ve begun to correct many of those problems. Did 20 weeks of a program fix me completely? No. But it’s done more to eliminate pain and restore range of motion (and, more importantly, strength through those ranges) than any mobility plan I’ve tried!
If you play a sport, MAPS Symmetry is a must-have program. I recommend getting it, working through it right away, and using it every time you enter and leave your off-season.
Who Shouldn’t Use MAPS Symmetry?
While I firmly believe that MAPS Symmetry should be in almost everyone’s tool kit, there are a few folks who would not be well served by buying this program.
People Without the Right Equipment
While many MAPS programs have “at-home mods” that allow you to modify the training to suit people with only dumbbells and a bench, MAPS Symmetry does not. That’s because the specific adaptations you are trying to create within MAPS Symmetry require specific gear.
If you don’t have a suspension trainer, resistance bands, squat or power rack, a barbell with weights, and dumbbells, you won’t be able to complete this program effectively. In addition, to get the best possible results, you’ll also need access to a cable machine (although this one is unnecessary as you can use bands as a substitute).
People Brand New to Resistance Training
If you like the idea of addressing imbalances and mobility but have no experience with resistance training, you could also check out Kelly Starret’s program, “The Ready State.” I use that program myself for similar goals, and it works well. It’s not a weight training program and instead uses mobility tools.
People Married To a Single Modality of Training
Many people are very committed to continually pushing themselves to lift more. Their only goal is to gain size and strength, and never want to do anything that isn’t geared 100% to their “gainz.”
While these people probably need MAPS Symmetry more than most, those are also the people who will look at blocks of suspension and isometric work as taking them away from deadlifts and bench presses.
While the last of the four phases of this program is a standard 5×5 barbell phase, the first three are not. If you know you can’t put aside your barbell for eight weeks, this isn’t a program you’ll actually use.
What Results Can You Expect From MAPS Symmetry?
As with all MAPS programs, each phase has a stated goal.
Phase one is designed to increase your overall strength and stability. Phase two addresses speeding up your metabolism by building muscle. Phase three is geared towards building muscle and aesthetics. Phase four is aimed at building maximum strength and size.
Call me crazy, but each of those goals is kind of the same thing. That’s four different ways to say that “this phase builds muscle.” Um, I’m strength training. I would hope that’s always the overall goal, right?!
After working through this program twice already, here is a more concise description of what you can expect from each phase.
Phase One Results
In phase one, the focus is on suspension and isometric work. The overwhelming results here will be stability and the beginnings of improvement in any imbalances you might have.
I also found this phase very useful as a diagnostic. I easily identified quite a few imbalances I wasn’t even aware of, and I quickly found the limits to my strength at the end of my range of motion. Both of these things were surprises to me. Both gave me specific goals to work on throughout the rest of the program.
You’ll also achieve strength gains in a way that is very different than what you might be used to. By strengthening smaller stabilizer muscles that are only recruited via suspension and isometric work, you give your larger muscles the freedom to focus all their strength on moving weight.
Lastly, this work will set you up perfectly for phase two!
Phase Two Results
Phase two of MAPS Symmetry focuses on unilateral work done in a hypertrophy rep range (higher reps per set). You’ll be using one limb at a time in isolation. The stability and control built in phase one will be highly beneficial here.
One important note for this phase is that you are NOT trying to move as much weight as possible! Instead, pick a much lighter weight than you usually would and work on form almost exclusively. Your goal is to perfect these movements so that you are safe and stable when it’s time to add a significant load in phase three.
The first and most noticeable result of phase two for me was an almost immediate improvement in balance. The difference in my ability to do single leg movement without falling over was massive at the end of this phase.
If you’ve never done single leg or arm work before, you are in for a humbling and extremely valuable experience. It will be very hard at first, but you will be blown away by how quickly you improve across this three-week block.
This block is also where imbalance correction really starts to happen. An overarching rule whenever doing unilateral exercises is to always start with your weakest side and let that side determine the number of reps you do on the stronger side.
Following this guideline will maintain strength in your stronger side while allowing the weaker one to catch up. For most of us who have never addressed imbalances before, these imbalances will not all be solved in this single three-week block. In fact, many of us will have to run through this program multiple times to achieve a truly balanced state.
Luckily, phase three will continue to focus on this area of opportunity, but slightly differently.
Phase Three Results
In this phase, you’ll continue to do unilateral work, but you’ll do so using a strength rep range (lower reps with more weight).
This phase seamlessly follows phase two. In phase two, you added more muscle via volume. In phase three, you’ll go after pure strength in those muscles.
It’s essential to go in this order because you need stability in your unilateral movements before you can effectively load them heavily. If you focused on movement quality in phase two, you’ll now be in a great position to pursue total weight in phase three.
Phase Four Results
Phase four is designed to take your newfound stability and symmetry and apply it to traditional bilateral lifts (specifically the squat, deadlift, bench, and overhead press).
This phase is structured in a traditional 5×5 (five sets of five reps) rep scheme. This phase showcases your strength gains. It’s also designed to take your newfound stability and use it to make serious strength gains over this phase.
You will be surprised at how different these lifts feel after the first eight weeks of MAPS Symmetry. You will also be surprised that your strength in them increased over that same eight weeks!
What’s included in This Program?
- Easy-to-use online portal
- Lifetime access
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Over 100 instructional videos (including separate exercise demos for men and women)
- Detailed training blueprint and calendar
- General guidelines and FAQ to maximize your results
- Four individual phases totaling eleven weeks of programming
- Foundational 3 days per week strength training
- Mobility, focus, and trigger session programming for two days per week
What equipment do you need for This Program?
- Squat Rack
- Weight Plates
- Suspension Trainer
- Pull-up bar
- Mobility stick
*While many MAPS programs have “at home” mods that allow you to complete the program with limited equipment (bench and dumbbells), MAPS Symmetry does not. Please ensure you have the above equipment available if you purchase MAPS Symmetry.
How Much Does This Program Cost?
At the time I’m writing this review (October of 2022), MAPS Symmetry is listed at $177. There are a couple of ways to save money, though…
Second, check out their bundle offers. While there aren’t any bundles with Symmetry listed now, I’m almost positive that will change soon. The bundle offers can save you a ton!
Pros and Cons of This Program
- Full program access through the Kajabi app
- Can be repeated consecutively many times with no negative effects
- Each phase is distinctly different, which will help retain interest and engagement
- Detailed instruction and easy to follow training blueprint
- Forum available for questions & form feedback (additional cost)
- Offsets imbalances caused by other programs
- Enhances results from subsequent programs
- Videos for men and women
- Detailed coaching cues on each video
- 5 days per week programming
- Builds muscle in all phases
- Helps to prevent injury
- Helps to address pain caused by imbalances
- Improves strength throughout ranges of motion many people never train
- Strengthens joints and connective tissue
- No "at home" mod for people with limited equipment
- Videos have cheesy music instead of voice coaching
- No tracking logs (other MAPS programs have terrible logs, so I'm not sure which is worse)
- There isn't enough emphasis on what the specific approach to each phase should be (should be done via video explanation)
- There are no regression exercises listed
- It is not clearly shown how to increase or decrease resistance in the suspension phase (there are single coaching cues, but this requires a visual explanation for most people to see how to do this)
- Warmup and priming exercises are not included.
- MAPS Prime is sold separately instead of being integrated into the training. For me, this is a big miss.
What I Like About This Program
I almost wish they hadn’t named this “Symmetry,” as this program is a must-have for anyone training with weights. Whether you are worried about symmetry and imbalances or not, this program WILL benefit you.
I love the integration of isometric and suspension training. Almost no one does these two training modalities, but everyone needs to. Surprising results are never far behind whenever a program uses unique training methods and a distinct change of pace.
I also love how I felt after doing this program. I’ve never felt more stable or strong in everyday life as I do now that I’ve completed MAPS Symmetry twice. I’d even place MAPS Symmetry over MAPS Performance in this regard.
What I don’t like about This Program
Even though I listed quite a few “cons” in the table above, many of those are just nitpicks. There are only two things I’d change about this program if I could (and both of these changes are easy to make on your own).
First, I wish the first phase was three weeks instead of two. I felt like I was just beginning to see the results of this phase when it was time to switch to phase two. How to fix this? Simply add an extra week to phase one!
Second, I wish the program started with one to two weeks of 5×5 training. This would allow the user to create a benchmark before running through the program. When you hit phase four, you’ll be considerably stronger and more able than when you started the program.
How much more is an unknown unless you tested yourself prior to starting. How to fix this one? Simply do one to two weeks of phase four programming before beginning the program.
One note on these changes is that I recommend anyone doing a MAPS program run it all the way through exactly as written before making any modifications. Since this program lends itself to being run many times consecutively, this is an easy process. Wait until your second time through to make any alterations.
Alternatives to This Program
If you have all the equipment needed for this program, I can’t think of another way to achieve the results that MAPS Symmetry provides.
If you don’t have the gear needed, I’d look at MAPS Performance. It’s the closest MAPS program to Symmetry (although still very different). You can check out my full review of MAPS Performance here.
If you want to address imbalances specifically, I’d look at a program called “The Ready State Virtual Mobility Coach.” Honestly, I’d recommend this program in addition to MAPS Symmetry, but it does a great job of addressing mobility issues and imbalances on its own too.
Outside of that, make sure to get MAPS Prime, if not MAPS Prime Pro, too (see what makes them different here). MAPS Prime is an essential add-on to all programming (ALL programs, not just MAPS programs – see my review here). MAPS Prime Pro is a program I use every day and enhances whatever program I happen to be doing at the time (full review here).
How to get the most out of This Program
As detailed as the instructions for this program are, I’ve found a few things they don’t list there that will help you get the most from MAPS Symmetry.
- Modify your approach to each phase based on its goals. Phases one and two are NOT designed for you to push as much weight as possible. Instead, focus on perfect form through all the reps. Phases three and four are where pushing yourself with heavy weight comes in.
- Don’t skip the “off” days. The trigger, mobility, and focus sessions called for in each phase are a massive part of getting results!
- Do the program exactly as laid out the first time.
- Use a heavy power rack to anchor your suspension trainer, not a doorway. Using a doorway severely limits the number of exercises you can effectively do.
- If you don’t have a suspension trainer, I suggest getting Olympic rings instead (see why in my article here). They are not only less expensive but much more versatile as well.
- Give the isometric movements all you have. Push these, and you’ll be pleasantly shocked by the results!
- Use a timer and stick to the 60-second rest periods strictly!
- Start with very light weight when doing the unilateral movements.
- Expect to suck at many of the movements included as they will be new to you. This is what you want, but be prepared! You will improve quickly!
- Cables are better than bands if you have a choice. Bands work okay, but they aren’t a great substitute for cables.
- If using bands, get a set of Fat Gripz to use as handles. Buy a set here on Amazon, and thank me later!
- If you are going to use bands, use a quality set like these, not the cheapest set you can find.
- Don’t assume that you know what your imbalances are. You WILL be surprised at what you actually find.
Of all of the MAPS programs I’ve completed (Symmetry, Anabolic, Prime, Prime Pro, Performance, Aesthetic, Anywhere, Starter, and Resistance), this is my favorite program by a mile. It’s not only enjoyable because the phases are so different from each other (which helps to keep me looking forward to each day’s training), but the feelings of strength and stability I gained are tremendous!
In my opinion, you can divide the MAPS programs into three groups: Essential, optional (but a good idea), and goal specific. For me, MAPS Symmetry falls into the essential category. It belongs in the toolbox of all home gym owners alongside MAPS Prime and MAPS Anabolic.
What does MAPS stand for?
Muscular Adaptation Programming System. In other words, your muscles (and you) are adaptation machines. Knowing how to manipulate and promote that adaptation is the key to great programming.
Can I do tMAPS Symmetry in a home or garage gym?
Yes, as long as you have the needed equipment listed above. MAPS Symmetry requires more gear than most other programs, so ensure you have what you need before beginning this program.
How long does each training session in MAPS Symmetry take?
If you stick to the prescribed rest periods, each session will take 45-60 minutes.
Can I run MAPS Symmetry repeatedly?
Yes! In fact, I recommend this to anyone with years of training or sports in their background. MAPS Symmetry is one of only two MAPS programs that can be run repeatedly with no ill effects (MAPS Performance is the other one).
- Remember to link from recommended programs.
Don’t forget the review schema.
MAPS Symmetry User Review - Get It Now, Thank Me Later!
MAPS Symmetry is a must have program for anyone that trains with weights or plays a sport. It can be run many times consecutively and includes 4 distinct phases of training. Of all the MAPS programs, this is one of only a few that I consider required for anyone who truly wants results in the gym!
Course Provider: Organization
Course Provider Name: Mind Pump Media
Course Provider URL: https://www.mindpumpmedia.com/maps-fitness-products