What is Unilateral Training and Why Do it?
What is unilateral training, in a nutshell?
Unilateral training means that you are performing exercises that focus on one leg, or one arm at a time.
What are the key benefits?
Since most sports are played off of one leg at a time – running, jumping, cutting, etc – it makes sense to train one leg at a time. Unilateral training has shown to increase strength in the “unused” side of the body as well. Training one limb can cause increases in strength in the other limb. This is known as cross-education. Essentially, you can increase strength in a limb without directly training it. Unilateral training also helps address weaknesses and imbalances from limb to limb so you won’t be able to compensate for your weaker side. Your balance and coordination will improve as each limb starts to become stronger.
How should someone get started with unilateral training if they’ve never done it?
Unilateral, bilateral, whatever type of training you want to start, do yourself a favor and consult with someone who knows they are talking about, i.e. personal trainer, strength coach, physical therapist, etc.
Any suggestions for easy beginner exercises?
All exercises can be progressed and regressed. Like the saying goes, “Don’t try and fit a square peg into a round hole.” Make the exercise work for you and your current abilities. Exercise selection will be completely based on the individual. For most people, a simple stationary split squat is a good place to start for a lower body exercise. For an upper body exercise, a well executed one arm DB row will help to improve posture.
Any potential risks/things to watch out for?
In 10+ years training people of all ages and abilities, I’ve never seen anyone hurt themselves or any negative side effects occur from unilateral training. On the other hand, too much single leg training might give you muscles you never knew you had, improved strength and balance you never thought you’d see again, and a completely different, more positive outlook on life in general.
Just a reminder that we are a few weeks away from the start our summer speed and strength training camp. It'll be a great complement to every athletes day camps and summer teams. To learn more and to register email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.