Uni-Lateral training. Why?
Your body is naturally out of balance, and for obvious reason – If I handed you a pen, you would use it with the same hand every time. If I asked you to kick a ball, you would probably use the same leg almost every time. Pick up a bag, carry your kids, perform a household task – almost without exception you would use the same side of your body. This article will show you some uni-lateral training exercises to correct this.
The repetition over a lifetime creates a reliance and dominance on particular areas, affecting both neural and muscular development on the favoured side.
Over the long term, this imbalance causes significant physical differences in our capabilities – something that will affect injury risk and physical performance if not corrected. If one of your limbs is 50% weaker than the other, you are losing a potential 25% of your power output. If you carry 20% more weight on one leg compared to the other, you are loading one set of joints more than the other which, over time, will significantly increase injury risk.
So how do we correct this? Is it possible to undo a lifetime of dominance?
Strength imbalances need to be corrected using uni-lateral exercises. Dumbbells, barbells, cables and kettlebells are a fantastic tool, but they need be used correctly.
The correction of these imbalances is possible, but it will take time and involve a combination of mobility drills, stretching and strengthening. Forcing each side of your body to work independently will ensure that over the long term, any imbalances are identified, reduced and removed, restoring balance and helping to prevent the long term injury risk.
The key is identifying the weaker areas and training specifically to correct these. In this article I will discuss the unilateral training and strength exercises I use most commonly – the stretching, foam roller exercises etc will be saved for future articles!
Training with purpose is far more productive than training for overall strength. Identify your weaknesses and work on them – your body will thank you!
So without further ado, the uni-lateral training exercises I use most frequently…
Single Arm Barbell Push (chest, shoulder, tricep, core)
I find this exercise is fantastic for loading the chest and shoulder. Performed correctly, there is also a great core workout. Keep your hips straight and stable by using your core muscles.
Rear Elevated Split Squat (quads, glutes, core)
Some trainers rate this as the king of leg exercises. I certainly rate it up there with squats as one of the best. Keep your heels on the ground and push up through them, working hard to keep the knee stable. Use your core to keep your back and chest up.
Single Arm Kettlebell Snatch (shoulders, tricep, core)
I usually approach this exercise in one of two ways – either heavy, for only single-digits reps or medium weight, medium rep where I use it as an exercise in a high-intensity circuit. Keep the movement quick, and practice technique regularly to ensure you avoid bruising over-flexing your wrist. Either way, I like it as an all-round shoulder exercise.
Single Leg Deadlift (glutes, hamstrings, lower back musculature)
There are two variations of this exercise I use – this one, and the stiff-legged version. Keep the movement slow and deliberate, aiming to keep the non-standing foot off the floor until the set is complete. This is fantastic for working directly on the glutes and correcting hip issues.
Single-Leg Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls (hamstrings, calves, glutes)
This exercise is a great way to directly strengthen then hamstrings. I tweak the technique to add extra glute work by driving the hips up whilst performing the concentric (curl) part of the movement, squeezing at the top before slowly returning to the start position.
Single Arm Row (core, back, biceps, rear delts)
This is a move often seen in bodybuilding circles, but it is also a fantastic exercise for correcting back and shoulder issues. The key here is to engage the core properly, keeping the torso stiff and not allowing for rotation. Keep the shoulder stable and do not allow it to let drop towards the floor, and ensure the elbow is pulled back to a good 90 degrees at the top of the movement.
These exercises are a snapshot of hundreds of uni-lateral exercises that I use to iron out strength imbalances and add a bit of variety to my training. By bringing up strength on the weaker side of your body, you will improve your physical performance and reduce your injury risk.
If there are any uni-lateral training exercises you like to use, feel free to share them with me!