What is unilateral training? It is simply working one side of your body at a time.
In most sports a load of the stuff we do is Unilateral – think about punching, throwing, hitting, running, grabbing and many of the other movements we do with one side of the body taking priority. While the body works as a unit, it is also made to move and work unilaterally, so why not train it that way. Here is a small sample of Unilateral exercises:
- Most Kettlebell exercises
- Split Squats
- One arm pressing
- Single leg squats
- Dumbell rows
- One arm snatch
The list goes on and there are so many ways you can train unilaterally – some of which I am sure you are already incorporating into your training programs.
Unilateral training is essential for the body in many ways and can build benefits in a way other types of training cannot.
Stability – Training each side of the body on its own builds unique stability for each side or limb worked. This allows for better performance and general movement, think about sports and life in general when we often change direction quickly or use one leg or one sides muscle group to power us in a certain direction. On top of this the unilateral training builds co-ordination in a way that training both legs together simply cannot do.
This is especially true of the legs which often work in unison but also work on their own as we shift weight between left and right. The extra stability and co-ordination you get from doing some unilateral training is invaluable.
Power – Unilateral movements are great power builders, the increased stability gained contributes to this but the main gains come from pressing, pushing or pulling with one side of the body taking all of the weight. Most people notice that after training using some of the exercises listed above that their performance in sports improves, on top of this the way their body feels improves with more power, looseness and flexibility.
Range of Movement – Training one side at a time allows us to get far deeper with the movement and therefore increase the ROM. Take for example a one-legged squat, it is just about the most effective move for going deep when squatting. Think about the hips and the gluteus depth of movement they can achieve with a one-legged squat or a lunge – this is something that cannot be achieved with a bilateral movement. This deeper ROM allows for activation of muscles which would normally be neglected in conventional strength training.
Make more from Less – In terms of equipment unilateral training is great as you need little or no equipment. One kettle bell is more than enough for a great upper body workout as you can use it for: Single arm snatches, rows, and press variations.In terms of training the legs unilaterally so many things can be done with just body weight: Split leg squats, single leg squats, single leg deadlifts and many more.
This allows you to train at home or while travelling while still getting a great workout which will test your muscles and build the 3 qualities listed above.
It is Fun – Something that encourages balance, agility and free movement is always fun. This is exactly what you get when you do exercise in a unilateral fashion – the extra balance and co-ordination required makes training fun. Far more fun than normal bodyweight training.
If you are neglecting unilateral training it is something you should really throw into your training routine, what ether a seasoned athlete of just someone trying to look and feel fitter it will benefit you to no end. I would recommend starting with some of the basics and trying to progress to doing workouts that consist solely of unilateral movements.
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