The Importance of Unilateral Muscle Training
Unilateral muscle training, or training one side of the body at a time, has gained popularity in recent years as a way to improve strength imbalances and prevent injuries. In this blog post, we will explore what unilateral muscle training is, its benefits, and how to incorporate it into your workout routine.
What is Unilateral Muscle Training?
Unilateral muscle training involves working one side of the body at a time, rather than both sides simultaneously. This can be done through exercises such as single-leg squats, single-arm rows, and lunges. The purpose of this type of training is to correct strength imbalances that can occur when one side of the body is dominant or favored over the other.
Benefits of Unilateral Muscle Training
Corrects Strength Imbalances
One of the primary benefits of unilateral muscle training is that it can help to correct strength imbalances between the left and right sides of the body. When performing larger compound movements, the dominant side can often overcompensate for the weaker side and therefore the weaker side does not receive the same stimulus. This is important because strength imbalances can lead to poor posture, decreased performance, and increased risk of injury.
Increases Stability and Balance
Unilateral muscle training can also improve stability and balance, which are essential for daily activities as well as sports performance. By training one side of the body at a time, you force your muscles to work harder to stabilize the body and maintain balance.
Reduces the Risk of Injury
By correcting strength imbalances and improving stability and balance, unilateral muscle training can help to reduce the risk of injury. This is especially important for athletes who may be more prone to injuries due to the demands of their sport.
Provides a Challenge
Finally, unilateral muscle training provides a challenge for the body that can help to break through plateaus and improve overall fitness. By working one side of the body at a time, you may find that you are able to lift heavier weights or perform more repetitions than you would be able to with bilateral training.
How to Incorporate Unilateral Muscle Training into Your Workout Routine
To incorporate unilateral muscle training into your workout routine, start by selecting exercises that target one side of the body at a time. Some examples include:
Single-arm shoulder presses
Single-leg calf raises
Sample Exercise Progression
Performing single limb exercises can be more demanding on the musculoskeletal system as it challenges strength, balance and stability. When performing these exercises, start with body weight or even an “assisted” version of the exercise if it is difficult to control the movement. Here is a sample progression for single-leg squats:
Perform with opposite limb acting as a “kickstand” for balance by placing heel on the ground but not putting any weight through that limb
Perform “kickstand” during the harder concentric portion of the exercise and try to maintain control without the opposite limb for the eccentric portion of the exercise
Perform both concentric and eccentric portions of the exercise without assistance
See our YouTube video below for how to a perform single-leg squat exercise progression!
You can also incorporate unilateral muscle training into your current workout routine by simply alternating between bilateral and unilateral exercises. For example, you might perform a set of barbell squats followed by a set of single-leg squats.
Unilateral muscle training is an effective way to correct strength imbalances, improve stability and balance, reduce the risk of injury, and provide a challenge for the body. By incorporating unilateral exercises into your workout routine, you can improve your overall fitness and performance, regardless of your level of experience or fitness goals.
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