The Quest for Ambidexterity




I was watching some old home videos the other day and was rather surprised by something my dad said as he handed me a teething toy.
"Here you go--oops, that's right, always in the left hand. It's pretty clear already that you got your mother's hand dominance."
The fact that I'm left handed is news to me, because for the past fourteen years I've been writing with my right hand. It's not even very ambiguous, I'm strongly right-handed. I'm not entirely surprised, because other than my hand, I'm extremely sinister. Learning to shoot bow and rifle was extremely difficult, as I had to learn to shoot with my right, non-dominant eye, and both my mother and older bother are left-leaning ambidextrous.
Another inspiration for this exercise was when I was working on a timber frame recently, and one of my ambidextrous friends was able to switch, quite seamlessly, from his left to right hands while driving a peg with a mallet.
Not only is it utilitarian from day to day to have the choice of hands, but there are other, perhaps less immediate benefits. It's thought that exercising both sides of the brain lends itself to heightened problem-solving capacity. Also, in the event of a stroke, one side of the brain will be left operable for communication. Unfortunately, I can neither confirm or deny the veracity of these claims.
With these incentives in mind, I decided to pursue ambidexterity, and post a guide online for like-minded Instrucablites.

I've devised a few techniques to train the non-dominant hand. These will be grouped into 3 categories: encumbrance, passive training and active training.

Please keep in mind that I'm striving for this goal as well. If anyone has ideas I haven't come up with, or have improvements on my techniques, please let me know.

Step 1: Encumberence Training

At home, wear a (non-insulative) glove, wrist brace, wrist weights, or wrist guard on your right hand. This will force you to use your non-dominant hand more without fully debilitating your dominant hand. While out and about, you can accomplish a similar effect by wearing bulky jewelry, watches, bracelets or other unobtrusive encumbrance devices. The purpose of this part of the training is to remind you, consciously and subconsciously, to do the others.

Warning. There have been concerns expressed that weighing down one of your hands and leaving it sedentary for long periods can decrease its dexterity. I would therefore advise against casting your hand in a cement block in an attempt to attain ambidexterity. Do not neglect your dominant hand in the course of this training. Also, I would like to state that I am fully responsible for anything bad that happens to you when you're following this training regimen. Or when you're not. Please, please sue me.

Step 2: Passive Training

Whenever you can, perform day-to-day tasks with your non-dominant hand. Eating is an excellent example of one of the things you wouldn't expect to be difficult, but may be harder than you think. Operating a fork or spoon with your non-dominant hand is often quite a clumsy exercise at first, and you may find yourself switching back to your dominant hand without thinking. Dominant hand encumbrance is an important part of this type of exercise. Locking or unlocking your car, dialing your phone, brushing your teeth, carrying your wallet on the non-dominant side and reversing your computer's keyboard and mouse positions are also good ideas.

Step 3: Active Training

Some activities may not be eligible, for one reason or another, for passive training. For example, writing may not, at first, be legible when you use your non-dominant hand. For things like work or school, turning in a report that looks like it was scrawled out by a kindergartener is not an option. In these cases, active training is necessary. Every day, take the time to transcribe a moderately sized block of text with your non-dominant hand. The lyrics of a song by your favorite band, or part of a script from a play or movie, or a passage from a book. This should keep things interesting and maybe give you a better understanding of the text in question. If you like, you can buy an inexpensive handwriting primer at virtually any bookstore or department store.
Another technique to try is training with larger objects, perhaps training your non-dominant hand with sports such as tennis, racquetball, ping-pong, bowling, fencing, riflery, playing a musical instrument or, if you have one, a Nintendo Wii. Sadly, certain articles of sporting equipment, such as fencing foils and golf clubs, are not as ambidextrous as you aspire to be, and you'll have to get different handles, at least.

Step 4: Some Notes

There will be a number of activities for which you will have a choice: duplicate, or mirror? For example, when you reverse your keyboard and mouse, will you leave the button layout of the mouse as-is, or reverse it? In the case of writing, will you stick with the standard, dextercentric style of writing taught in schools, or get your DaVinci on and write mirror-style? (Of course, native southpaws may find that the traditional left-to-right method works better with the right hand.) The mirror method has going for it the fact that your brain finds it relatively easy to replicate an action performed by one hand in the other, but mirrored, as it were. You should experiment to see which method you prefer in each instance that the option presents itself.
These three techniques should be continued for as long as it takes to establish acceptable dexterity with both hands. Good luck!

The inimitable Weissensteinburg has suggested writing with both hands simultaneously, your non-dominant hand mirroring the dominant. Cool! Try it! It...didn't work so well for me... Imagine drawing an object you've never seen before while blindfolded as described to you by someone who also can't see what you're drawing. That was the quality of the "letters" that were spawned from that attempt. However, it was interesting to feel how your hands desperately want to move in mirror images of each other. As another fun side-experiment, try writing the standard way with both hands simultaneously.



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    280 Discussions


    10 years ago on Step 3

    wow, i'm naturally ambidexterous, and i take it for granted cause i don't realize that other people can't use both hands the way i can. I am right eye dominant though, but i'm not sure if you can train you other eye, or if it's something you're born with.

    2 replies

    You can. I'm left-eye dominant, but I've trained myself to be...ambiocular? I've managed to learn to shoot with my right eye.


    When I worked as Archery Director at the Boy Scout Camp Cherry Valley on Catalina Island, I trained to become "ambiocular" as well. I am normally left eyed, but sometimes I shoot better right eyed. I have yet to introduce this to guns though...


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I am an ambidextrous artist, and I can draw with both hands at the same time, although I have to concentrate so that I do not reverse the things that I am drawing with each hand. (did that make sense? I hope so) Symmetrical drawings at the same time are unusually difficult, as I still have a dominant hand. I am right dominant, but my left has more control (ie. I can draw a perfect circle or straight line with ease with my left hand).

    7 replies

    I live in a right handed world. I write better with my right hand, doors are easier to open with my right hand (most by design), and I was taught to write with my right hand, so I was "brainwashed" at an early age to favor my right hand. To answer your question, yes, I am much faster with my right hand, and it is also more comfortable.

    Interesting. My older brother also had hand dominance problems in school--or rather, the school had problems with his hand-dominance. In his case, they objected to the fact that he didn't favor either hand, and apparently called my mom several times about it.
    I've always found the stigma rather odd--in Latin, left is sinster, in French, gauche; both have negative connotations in English.

    Yeah, THAT, you can thank the ages-ago religious fanatics for. The left-handed people were thought to be evil, I don't know exactly why, but, if you look at the Bible(I think, I don't know I'm an Atheist), there is a person/angel thing referred to as the 'Left Hand of God'. From what I understand, 'Ole Lefty did the *hmm hmm* 'necessary evil' in God's name. So, yeah, look at the original really old religions, not Christianity or whatever, and find lefty's evil roots. I say not Christianity, because, if you really look, it takes many elements obviously and blatantly from older religions.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, I normally wouldn't reply to such comments as JamesTB13's, but James: please, if you're going to make such statements, do your research first. A quick online search would tell you that the only being possibly referred to as such (in the Bible) is Gabriel and that is in Christian or Jewish tradition, not the Bible itself. He certainly wasn't evil. Other tradition (again not the Bible itself) asserts that Satan originally sat at God's left hand (note: no-one is called the Left OR Right Hand of God - that's just where they sat), thus perhaps leading to the conlusion your "religious fanatics" came to about lefties.
    As for your unsupported assertions about Christianity's makeup, or at least the Judaeo-Christian line through the Old Testament, it need not take elements from older religions: The Biblical narrative goes back to the beginning of the world, chronicling the rise of both Judaism and Christianity. Admittedly certain "Christian" cults have picked up a bunch of bollocks from all sorts of sources, but that doesn't change the basic premise.
    Your being an Atheist does not excuse you from knowing what you're talking about.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Loving the 6 month later reply...I thought it was pretty clear when I said 'I don't knoe, I'm an Atheist', that it meant this is my understanding of things. So, it's true that in the medieval age, ceratin areas beleived, because of their religion, that left-handed people were evil. Now, I'm not going to reply after this, because I only like to argue facts...y'know, science and such. I stopped beleiving in fairy tales when I was 7. As a final statement...You will notice that the Bible's storyline is essentially a cobbling together of much older, and now essentially non-existent religions.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Good to hear from you so quickly James. Yeah, six months is a while 'cept that was the first time I've seen this particular Instructible and I wrote on the same day. I'm with you on the " to argue facts...y'know, science (sic) and such"; that's why I felt duty-bound to write regarding your original statements, you and I being lovers of facts and all.
    Still, Instructibles should be about facts and "how-to-do" rather than diatribe, so how's about we just retire gracefully to our respective religious beliefs - you to Atheism and me to mine. Cheers :]


    10 years ago on Introduction

    another painful way of getting to use your non-dominant hand is by learning to play an instrument both ways. i'm a left dominant but play the guitar in a right dominant fashion. tried playing the other way and it was near to impossible. had to learn it from scratch but now i can do a michael angelo any time ........ cool or what?

    6 replies

    Ridiculous. That...that is...That is madness. Hm. Another cool thing would be to learn to play with either hand without changing the string configuration (So that when you're playing left-handed the bottom string is actually on the bottom, maybe). That way you could just switch in mid song. Not a lot of practical benefits other than freaking people out, of course.

    It IS possible to learn ambidextrousness: some years ago I had a job mapping assets onto a computer and developed bad OOS in my right wrist. To alleviate that I persevered with learning to use the mouse with my left hand (without swapping the buttons over). I can now use a mouse with dexterity in either hand.
    I like Mother Natures Son's idea that "exercising both sides of the brain lends itself to heightened problem-solving capacity". Boy, I hope so!

    You, Sir, just (almost) described the iconic guitarist Jimi Hendrix. As a kid, he played naturally left-handed, but they could only afford a right-handed guitar, so he learned to play UPSIDE-DOWN. Eventually, he learned his normal way, but still.


    10 years ago on Step 4

    I enjoyed reading this! I'm ambidextrous & always have been. Everything I do to myself, I use my left hand but I write with my right. I have a theory that people with a double crown (2 whorls on top of the head) are more likely to be ambidextrous. I have & ask whenever I notice someone with a double crown if they're ambidextrous. I'm fairly short so I don't often see the tops of many heads!

    1 reply
    Mother Natures Sonemdc

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 4'd be interesting if there were a correlation. I've never heard of that kind of patterns are one thing I haven't looked into much.