Unilateral training is something that is relatively new to me (although I came to realise that I had to some extent been training in this way without realising it). As a keen runner, I had been suffering with knee problems on and off for a few years. After speaking to physiotherapists (mainly the incredibly knowledgeable Jon Davis at Shires Physio) and doing some research of my own, I discovered the benefits of unilateral training and how it can make me a stronger, more injury-proof athlete.
Unilateral training simply means to train one side of the body separately from the other.
Most people tend to favour one side of their body to the other which, over time, can create an imbalance in muscular strength. Strength training bilaterally, using both sides of your body together, can only add to the imbalance, leading to postural problems, poor sporting technique and injury.
Training unilaterally can help to
- improve balance and stability
- strengthen core stabilising muscles
- even out muscular imbalances
- improve sporting performance
- reduce the risk of injury
It is important to begin unilateral training with light or no weights to introduce your body to this type of training. Don’t be discouraged from backing off the heavy weights as once your technique is solid and your stabilising muscles have adapted to working in this way, many people find that they can progress fairly quickly, even increasing in strength in bilateral movements. It is also a good idea to carry out unilateral training at the beginning of your workout, as it becomes much harder to balance when fatigued.
Some great functional unilateral exercises include:
- single leg squats
- single leg glute bridges
- single arm dumbbell rows
- hanging abdominal single leg raises
Add unilateral training into your strength routine and see the benefits for yourself…