What is it?
Unilateral training is basically carrying out exercises on one arm, or one leg rather than both arms or both legs at the same time.
Why does it work?
Bilateral training (using both arms or legs) can allow the dominant, stronger side of the body to compensate for the weaker side – meaning that the body can become imbalanced, often leading to injury. Unilateral work essentially allows the weaker side to become stronger. As many unilateral movements require increased balance, the movements will also help build core stability too and, not only that, but the movements are often more functional – they are a more accurate representation of our daily tasks (very rarely to we carry equal weight in both hands!).
How do I do it?
Basically, you are working each side separately. Always start with the weaker side, and work until it is fatigued, then complete the same reps on the other side. As this is the stronger side, it is unlikely to fatigue by the end of the set but you will be bringing the weaker side up to match. Whilst it won’t be building strength at the same rate as the weaker side, the stronger side will still benefit from the exercises.
What exercises can I try?
Bulgarian Split Squat
In a lunge position with the back leg raised (great for flexibility too!), holding a dumbbell in each hand either side of the body. Lower by bending the front leg and push back up to stand.
TIPS: Keep the majority of the weight through the front foot, keeping the chest upright throughout the movement. Ensure that the knees stay in line (don’t let them turn out) and push through the heel to stand.
Single Leg Deadlift
Using a kettlebell in one hand, bend forward from the hips lifting the same leg to the arm that the kettlebell is in until the kettlebell reaches the floor (or you reach your full movement).
TIPS: Keep the core engaged throughout the movement and don’t let the hips twist – they should be square. Squeeze the glutes to stand and maintain a neutral spine (including the neck).
Holding a kettlebell in one hand, resting on the shoulder. Push the weight straight up to the ceiling. Then lower and return to the start position. You can also use the legs to help by bending and pushing at the initial upward movement.
TIPS: Keep the elbow tucked in at the start and make sure the push goes straight up in a vertical position. Keep the core engaged and do not allow the back to bend.
Bent Over Row
Holding a kettlebell in one hand, lean forward hinging from the hips and allow the arm to hang down vertically from the shoulder. Squeezing the shoulder, tricep and back lift the kettlebell up towards the body keeping the elbow in.
TIPS: Keep a slight bend in the knees and maintain a neutral spine, exhaling as you lift the kettlebell.
Single Leg Glute Bridge
Lying on your back with one leg raised vertically and the other heel close in to the bottom, push through the heel to lift the bottom up, pushing the raised foot up to the ceiling and squeezing the glutes. Lower back down to the floor.
TIPS: Don’t let the bottom push too high to force the back to overextend and maintain a tight midline.