Unilateral training is an approach to exercise that involves training one side or limb at a time. This is an extremely effective training methodology that will improve your strength, correct muscular imbalances and prevent future injuries.
The reasons to use unilateral training are countless. Let’s review some of the amazing benefits here:
Did you know that the sum of the strength of your individual limbs is greater than the strength you have when using both limbs together? This bilateral discrepancy is surprising to most, but multiple studies are showing this to be true. So when you spend more time strength training each limb, you’ll find you’re stronger as a whole when you train bilaterally.
Reduce Muscle Imbalances
When we use both arms and legs in an exercise, our dominant side tends to compensate for a weakness/injury in the opposing side. Unilateral training allows us to really focus on our weaknesses, helping us build symmetry and reduce the tendency to overcompensate in bilateral training or functional exercises.
If you like to do high-intensity interval training or power movements, as most athletes do, it’s important to focus on reducing these muscular imbalances so you can be more efficient, stronger and injury-free.
As a personal trainer, I’d recommend starting on the weaker side when doing this type of training and picking a repetition count and weight that you can perform safely but to the point of fatigue. You don’t have to do more reps on the weaker side; your goal is to simply help this side catch up to the stronger one and then progress both limbs at equal intensities in the future. You’ll still be strengthening your dominant side; just not at the same rate as the weaker side.
You’ll need to engage your core muscles when you’re doing unilateral training, because you’ll be off balance. Deep stabilizer muscles throughout the legs, back and core will be engaged on a constant basis to keep you from falling over. And the more muscle you recruit, the more calories you’ll burn and the greater strength gains you’ll see! When you can improve your overall core strength, you’ll also achieve superior performance gains and improved functional fitness and protect yourself against future injuries.
Overall, I’d say this is a no-brainer approach to fitness and something we should incorporate on a weekly basis! Don’t you agree?