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3 Benefits of Unilateral Exercises

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Have you been a victim of your trainer programming Bulgarian Split Squats? Same. We promise it’s for a purpose! In resistance training we have either bilateral or unilateral exercises. Bilateral exercises use each limb or working muscles equally such as in squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, pull-ups, etc. Unilateral exercises work each side individually such as your beloved Bulgarian Split Squats, Single-Leg Deadlift, Single-Arm Rows, Single-Arm Presses, Suitcase Carries, Step-Ups, Cable Wood Chops, etc. Both bilateral and unilateral movements are found in a well-balanced training program.

Here at Garage1880, we’re a big fan of unilateral movements. You’ll find these exercises in our programs for people who enjoy running, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, and participating in other outdoor Colorado activities. Although, outdoor enthusiasts aren’t the only ones who benefit from unilateral work. Most people can benefit from unilateral training. Here’s why:

1. Unilateral exercises improve muscular imbalances.

It’s common to have muscle imbalances. Nearly everything we do is single-sided: walking, driving, using a mouse at your computer, eating, etc. There are very few times when we are using the same amount of strength and power with both sides at the same time. This creates muscular imbalances over time, which, again, is completely common, but unilateral training allows us to bridge the gap between the discrepancies.

2. Unilateral movements require more stability.

Single-sided movements require more stabilization from your core to avoid compensating with the other side. For example, in a single-arm row, you must utilize your obliques and other core stabilizers to avoid over rotating.

3. Unilateral training can be a way of isolating muscles.

Single-sided work is a great way to increase the strength, hypertrophy, and endurance of a specific muscle group. For example, exercises like single-leg calf raises or single-arm lateral raises are helpful for improving stability, endurance, and strength within the isolated muscle group.

At Garage1880, we take all of our clients through a movement assessment during their initial consultation. Within the movement assessment, we look for potential muscular imbalances. If our personal trainers identify overuse or underuse of certain muscles, the client would likely benefit from unilateral exercises to help bridge the asymmetrical gap. For example, if the client is able to perform a single-leg glute bridge, we would take a look at this movement to see if there are differences in strength or muscle use on each side. If there is a discrepancy between sides, we would be sure to program single-leg exercises that impact the muscles surrounding the hips (glutes, hamstrings, quads, etc.).

Schedule your free movement assessment with Garage1880.


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