Today I would like to discuss some of the benefits of unilateral strength training and why it might be a good idea to incorporate it periodically into your workout routine. Unilateral training is executed by isolating one side of the body independent of its matching side and then subsequently completing the same exercise on the matching side. Some examples include: 1-arm dumbbell presses, 1 arm dumbbell bench presses (flat, incline, or decline), lunges, 1-leg squats, and 1 arm anterior/lateral raises.
One of the many benefits of unilateral training is the significant focus its places on the body’s core and stabilizer muscles. As you perform an exercise on one side of the body; your core muscles are activated in an effort to maintain balance and stability and ultimately stabilize your spine. This core involvement is less intense in bilateral movements as your body is able to utilize momentum more effectively and balance easier during exercise movements.
Unilateral training more accurately depicts real life movements. It’s rare that you would be a position where you needed to mimic a leg extension or leg press. However, you may need to lunge forward to grab a bag of groceries off the ground, pick up a child, pull the string to start a leaf blower, or reach overhead to grab something off the shelf.
Unilateral training can help compensate for muscular imbalances. Most individuals have a dominant side of the body that is naturally stronger than the other. When performing bilateral exercises we often will favor one side of the body and the subsequent muscular imbalance can increase the likelihood of injuries to occur. Training unilaterally will help address this potential for imbalance by training each side independently, yet equally.
Lastly, unilateral training can provide greater caloric expenditure. Since you are training each side independently, some muscles are doing twice the work they would normally be performing for the same bilateral movement. For example, a barbell bench press is drastically different than a dumbbell 1-arm bench press. 3 sets of 10 on the bilateral exercise become 6 sets of 20 on its unilateral counterpart.
At the end of the day variety in your strength training routine is critical. Try gradually incorporating some unilateral movements into your current routine and see if you notice a difference. You want to always keep your routines fresh, consistent (the frequency-not the exercises), and most importantly safe.
I hope you enjoyed my blog and feel free to ask me any questions. If you are working out in the Community Center, feel free to ask the fitness attendant or one of our certified personal trainers to assist you.
See you next time! – Jay
Jay Swisher is the Operations Manager of the Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703.335.8872 or via email at email@example.com
Community Matters is a blog created by the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation. The blog features program updates, announcements of new services, special event notices, or information of general interest.