(unilateral training video tutorial below)
You’re in the gym multiple times a week doing your thang lifting and completely rocking your workouts. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, EZ bar curls. If they make a machine for it or you can use a barbell in it – it is a part of your workout! But have your noticed a stall in your gains, bro? Have that one lagging tricep that keeps waving when you stop? Do you find yourself squatting, curling, pressing and basically living in the squat rack? (for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD PLEASE DO NOT BE THAT PERSON) Well, you may be in the need of a jolt to your program in the form of dumbbells and a little thing called unilateral training.you may be in the need of a jolt to your program in the form of dumbbells and a little thing called unilateral training. Unilateral training – training one limb or side at a time – is a form of training that is essential to any program. One arm rows and alternating bicep curls are a great basic lifts that most people do in the gym, but we tend to forget about breaking down major movements for the chest, legs and back to keep us evenly trained and symmetrical. Here are 6 benefits of unilateral training and why you NEED TO incorporate it into your next workout.
strengthen your “weak” side.
Do a lunge on your dominate side. Now do one on you non-dominate side. Notice a difference? We have that one side that is a little weaker or not as defined. I like to refer it to it as my “smart side” and my “dumb side”. The “smart side” is on its A game and my “dumb side” acts like it has no idea what is going on. When you train with a barbell , the stronger side can pick up the slack for the weaker side during a lift like the bench press. But when you pick up dumbbells and do the same movement, you may notice a huge difference between your right and left side. Same thing goes for the leg press. Training unilaterally will force each side to do the same amount of work, which in turn, will give both sides an equal workout creating more symmetry in your physique. Symmetry is one of these top five reasons to train unilaterally:
If one side feels weaker than the other, chances are one side is smaller (or larger depending on if you see the glass half full or half empty)than the other. Many people have a “lagging” side where the muscles from side to side are not symmetrical. Shoulders are a great example of this. Because so many people work in front of a computer, our mouse shoulder looks over developed and is slightly elevated when compared to the non-mouse side. Working each side of your body separately will help bring up any body parts that are uneven. Or don’t if you like the look of wearing one shoulder as an earring. That’s cool too.
If you have hit a plateau and can’t make the transition to the next set of weights on the rack, it’s time to try the unilateral style of lifting. When you strengthen your “weaker” side with unilateral training, you will undoubtedly make gains to bilateral lifts (lifts that work both sides at the same time). As you strengthen your “weaker” side, you will be able to push more weight when both sides are working equally. Depending on the strength difference in your left side to your right, you may need to train with different pound weights. Weird? Yes. But effective if you want to even yourself out.
3. core work without crunches.
What does the core have to do with training shoulders unilaterally? Pick up one dumbbell and do a standing shoulder press. As you press with your right arm, take your left hand and touch your obliques. Feel how tight they are? BINGO! When you train one side at a time, your core has to work extra hard to stabilize your body so you don’t tip over. If you don’t tighten that core during these types of movements, you will look and feel like a Weeble Wobble. And speaking of wobbling….
<h34. >increased balance.
Unilateral training is all about balance. Exercises like single leg deadlifts not only isolate the hamstrings, glutes and low back, but in order to do them you have to balance on one leg. Many gym goers don’t set aside time during their workout to just work on balance and coordination, so unilateral training is a great way to sneak it in. Balance and coordination is an essential element in any training regimen and well as in everyday life. As we age our ability to balance decreases, so, like the old saying goes,” if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
5. more focus.
Core tight – check. Balance – check. Contract the muscle – check.
Because you have to go through a mental check list during a unilateral lift, you will be more focused on your body during your workout. Single sided training forces you to concentrate on the movement that you are doing which, in turn, will make you focus more on the muscle group doing the work. You will be more likely to properly engage the working muscle when you only have to think about one side doing a movement verses working bilaterally.
My favorite unilateral exercises/combos:
- Single leg reverse lunge with a one arm bicep curl
- Renegade Rows
- Single Leg Hip Bridge
- Single leg deadlift
- Pistol squats
- Leaning single arm side lateral raise
- Single arm skullcrusher lying on a stability ball
Check out my video below for examples on how to perform all of these exercises 🙂