The Benefits of Unilateral Strength Training
“Make sure you get my GOOD side!!!” How many times have we heard someone say that in front of a camera? Looking good and feeling good also plays a major role in our daily functions and activities. So…the question is…what side is REALLY the good side? In a lot of cases, one tends to favor a side. Either way, our goal should be to remain as functionally symmetrical as possible.
Unilateral or “right or left side” strengthening is a challenging and creative way to help close the gap with strength and endurance imbalances. From past injuries to poor posture the list can be lengthy as far as contributing factors. Either way, a dose of mind/muscle pairing can be very beneficial for the musculoskeletal and nervous system. Mental visualization of the muscle being targeted produces a better quality in the muscle’s contraction. Apply this concept to one side of your body; more on one side, less on the other and balance should ultimately ensue.
Most of us have had injuries at some point in our lives and whether it's a sprained ankle, knee contusion or maybe a stiff shoulder that isn't cooperating, COMPENSATION is real!!! This is basically the brain’s way of protecting an injured or compromised body part to prevent further damage by overusing another muscle or area of the body as a defense mechanism. Physical therapy is a great example of using unilateral strengthening to address muscular strength and endurance imbalances to bridge the gap between the injured and the non-injured side. Poor posture can definitely be addressed with this discipline as well and for all you athletes or wannabes; you guessed it….unilateral training is one of the best ways to train to improve overall athleticism. Deep stabilizer muscles will be targeted which helps develop our nervous system and improve muscle activation. More intense muscle contractions can promote both increased strength and endurance.
Here are some examples of basic unilateral exercises:
Single Leg Bridge
More advanced exercises using added resistance or maintaining longer time under tension:
Single-Arm Single-Leg Row
Bulgarian Split Squat
So at the end of the day, try exercising a body part on your left side…then the right. This can help overall athletic performance, pre-hab or rehab of injuries and to stimulate muscular growth! In time your good side will be history and both sides will perform evenly.