3 reasons to show unilateral training some love

Fitness & Training Tips
By Jade Loney
Jade Loney

About Jade Loney

I’ve always had a passion for health and fitness (I’m currently studying nutritional medicine.) However, it wasn’t until I started training at Ignite that I fell in love with CrossFit and the awesome community that came with it. CrossFit has helped me reassess what fitness means to me and shifted my focus to performance. The human body continually amazes me with what it is capable of and that fascination is what led me to become a trainer; to help others find their own strength and confidence! I’d love to make it to Regionals one day but even if I don’t, I’ll have enjoyed every step of the chase. If I’m not working I’m usually here training so if you see me on the floor please say hi! I don’t bite that much. 🙂
Uni-what now?… Unilateral training refers to training limbs individually, rather than engaging both sides together.
Think lunges, step ups, pistol squats, single arm dumbbell work… the list goes on.
Now, if I had a dollar for every client who told me that lunges were their least favourite exercise… I probably wouldn’t be a millionaire, but I’d certainly have a lot more money in the bank!
Sound familiar? I have news for you friends, including unilateral work in your training is essential for a strong, structurally balanced body. I’m going to tell you exactly why:
Get rid of imbalances
Everyone has a weak side, most people tend to favour one side during every day activities. Studies have shown that the difference between individual limb strength can be as high as 25%!
Bilateral movements (using limbs in unison) such as barbell squats or bench press can allow your stronger, or dominant side to compensate for your weaker side, which can worsen strength imbalances and increase risk of injury.
Unilateral training allows you to address any strength discrepancies you may have, creating greater structural balance and potentially contributing to greater strength gains in bilateral movements.
HOT TIP: when doing a single arm or leg movement, start with your weaker side first and only complete the same number of reps achieved on the weaker side when training your stronger side.
Improve core strength and stability
Unilateral training creates greater instability in the body, forcing you to recruit deep stabilising muscles to engage and keep your body centred.
Studies have shown that unilateral exercises are superior to bilateral exercises in developing core muscle strength.
Build functional strength
If you think about all of your day-to-day activities and athletic endeavours, how many of them require bilateral movement and how many of them are single arm or single leg movements?
For example, kicking a soccer ball or carrying a grocery bag. Even walking and running are single leg movements when you think about it – one foot after the other.
Increasing your unilateral strength transfers broadly into your everyday life, increasing your functional strength and overall situational adaptability.
You can include unilateral movements in your program as an accessory piece following your bigger bilateral movements. For example:
A. Back squat 4 x 6-8
B.i. DB reverse lunges 3 x 10/leg
B.ii. Single arm DB rows 3 x 10/arm
So there you have it, three reasons to embrace those lunges!