Building the Weaker Hand

I get a lot of questions on how to develop the "weaker hand." Individuals with a dominant right hand struggle with their left hand; the reverse being true for those with a dominant left hand. Yes, there are those individuals who can perform a vast number of tasks equally well with either hand, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of us do not. It is with this reality that I decided to pass along a few things that helped me develop my "weaker hand."

Why do we have a non-dominant (aka weaker) hand? To me, that's an important question to answer if we want to develop the non-dominant hand, decreasing the coordination gap between the left and right. There's been a lot of research, some of which is still being argued. So rather than get into a lot of numbers and statistics, let me simply lay out the basics... with a few figures.

Our brain has two-sides — the analytical left side and the creative right side. These two spheres basically operate independently from each other; you could almost say we have two brains not two sides! In general, the left side is more verbal and more easily trained in the educational process than the right side. As infants, we began to explore and quickly develop a dominant and non-dominant hand... simply because it was used or practiced with more.

Research has shown that about 70% of all people are right-handed, while the remaining 30% are left-handed... including those who don't have a strong left hand preference or who learned to eat or write with their right hand.

Of the left-handed people, 30% of them have their dominant (left) hand controlled by the right brain, leaving 70% having their left brain control the dominant (left) hand. Only 2% of the right-handed people have their dominant hand controlled by the right brain, leaving 98% of right-handed people with their dominant hand being controlled by the left (analytical) brain. Wow! If I did my math correctly, that would mean that a little over 10% of the people in the world have their dominant hand (could be left or right hand) controlled by the right side of the brain... the side which is necessary for original creativity. That means that for the majority of us, our dominant hand is controlled by the left side of the brain... the side that basically learns easier... if you will.

So what are we going to do about this? What can we do about this? Once again there's been a lot of research exploring ways to develop your non-dominant hand to write, for example. But rather get into all of that — you can do your own research — let me share a few of my own personal experiences with you.

Developing the Non-Dominant Limb

As a performer and drum/percussion instructor, I've tried to figure out ways to increase my coordination and reduce the skill gap between my dominant and non-dominant hand.

Laying aside all the scientific evidence and what part of the brain is doing what, when or where, I believe that our non-dominant limb is weak simply because we don't use it enough. We've developed our dominant hand to handle all of the fine motor skills ... the small muscle, intricate movements that our fingers are largely needed for. That leaves our non-dominant hand to take care of whatever task(s) remains while the dominant hand is in use. If you are carrying something and need to open a door without sitting anything down, which hand manipulates the key and door knob? Which hand stirs your drink? Which hand do you use to brush your teeth? Which hand do you typically eat with? The answer is more than likely your dominant hand.

To develop your non-dominant hand I suggest that you take one-day a week in which you only use your non-dominant hand; only using the dominant hand when absolutely necessary, like in an emergency. If you are extremely active or can't afford to take an entire day to do this, choose a length of time, let's say one-hour, and only use your non-dominant hand. This may be tough to do, so fight the urge to give up and do not start using your dominant hand. If you can force yourself to only use the non-dominant hand, you will begin to develop some of those fine motor skills... I know I did! I can't say your be 100% ambidextrous, but you'll see a positive change as the weeks, months and years go by.

Here are just a few everyday things you can try to do with your non-dominant hand. Be sure to gather friends and family around to watch... they'll be laughing as they see you attempt these tasks:

  • Brush your teeth
  • Comb your hair
  • Stir a drink or food
  • Lock/unlock a door using a key
  • Eat with a fork or spoon
  • Open/close screw-top container
  • Pick up very small objects; smaller than a thimble

Notice that I left off shaving; you'll want to take care (or pass) when it comes to using sharp utensils. Anyway, the list goes on and on — make up some of your own things to try.

Making a real effort to use the non-dominant throughout your day is going to help (and encourage) you to do the same while playing drums or percussion. I saw significant results in myself AND my student's coordination and technique just by actively developing the fine motor skills in the non-dominant hand OR foot! Yes, don't forget your feet! And remember the popular saying... use it or lose it!