The Fitness Papers: Why You Should Be Doing Unilateral Exercises

The Fitness Papers: Why You Should Be Doing Unilateral Exercises

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Have you ever noticed that one side of your body feels a little weaker than the other? One arm is stronger than the other? Or that one leg feels a little bit more stable than the other? Too often strength athletes and general trainees think this is an abnormal occurrence. But it actually isn’t.

Our bodies are actually made to be asymmetrical. One way that you can combat asymmetries is by supplementing strength training with unilateral work.

As the “uni” prefix implies, this type of workout involves training just one side of the body—say, an arm or a leg—instead of focusing on both sides at the same time, a practice that is referred to as bilateral training. For example, instead of doing bicep curls with both arms moving in unison, you would perform a set of curls with just one arm, then switch to the other side.



  1. Balances out your training.

We all have one side that’s stronger than the other. Unilateral training helps to strengthen the “weaker” side by recruiting it to do all of the work.

Creating a balance in musculature from one side of the body to the other sets the body up to be capable of better technique and overall greater lifts.

  1. Improves your core stability.

When you’re working just one side, the body is naturally forced to work harder on balance to compensate for the disparity of weight. Unilateral training forces us to focus, engage and stabilize.”

In this form of training, the fact that only one side of the body is being loaded creates an instability in the core. To maintain stability and complete unilateral exercises properly, the anterior, posterior, and lateral core must stabilize. For this reason, unilateral exercises are effective when trying to train core stability.

  1. Adds more challenge to strength training.

If you want to add some resistance to your strength regimen without carrying a lot of extra weight, unilateral training incorporates an element of challenge without running the risk of a load-bearing injury.

When training squats, for example, advanced athletes may require 300-plus pounds added to the bar in order to continue making progress when squatting with both legs. When they switch to a single-leg squat or rear-foot-elevated squat, they will be able to get a similar challenge by holding dumbbells without the higher risk of heavy weights resting on their back.

  1. Improves functionality for sports performance.

Whether you’re a runner, rower or swimmer, unilateral training can help improve your athletic ability.

Since most sports are played off one leg at a time – such as running and jumping – it makes sense to train one leg at a time. Training one limb can cause a strength increase in the other limb. This is known as cross-education.” As each limb starts to become stronger, your coordination will naturally improve.


10 Unilateral Training Exercises for Beginners

  • Single Leg Squats with Chairs
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Rows
  • Lying Single Leg Raises
  • Single Arm Lateral Raises with Band
  • One-Arm Side Pushups
  • Single Leg Hip Flexion with Band
  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Biceps Curl
  • Single Leg Hamstring Curls with Band
  • Alternating Front Jabs
  • Forward Lunges with Dumbbells

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