As you continue to progress in your fitness training, you might start exploring single-arm or single-leg variations of movements. Using these movement types provides some excellent benefits when it comes to your movement capabilities and also expanding the effect of your equipment resources. For a time, unilateral movements got muddied by unstable surfaces and other aspects that affected their credibility. With that in mind, let's look at some key benefits of unilateral movements and how you can maximize your training.
Let's start with a lesser-known benefit of unilateral training. When it comes to horizontal pulling, completing a single-arm row variation with a single plant leg offers some compelling benefits.
As Mike Boyle points out, "Recent advances in athletic training and physical therapy have shown the body is linked both anteriorly and posteriorly in a diagonal pattern. Force is transmitted from the ground through the leg to the hip via the biceps femoris and the glute max. The force is then transferred across the sacroiliac joint into the opposite latissimus dorsi. The key in this system of cross-linkage lies not only in stabilizing the hip but in engaging the muscles used in the proper motor pattern."
In simpler terms, there is a crossover effect that occurs from the front of your leg to the opposite side of your back during a row. By completing the row with a single leg position, you maximize this training effect.
Another benefit of unilateral exercise is using it to evaluate differences between your left and right side of your body. While most of us are going to have some asymmetry, the key is to keep it in a range that allows you to perform without getting injured or experiencing pain. If these two things continue to happen, your asymmetry is probably veering to the point of being too great.
Try this simple exercise to feel the activation difference between bilateral and unilateral stances.
Stretch Weight Further
From an equipment standpoint, unilateral movements provide a tool to expand the effect of load you can access. For example, completing a single-arm hinge row makes a weight feel more challenging compared to some of its double-arm alternatives. On top of completing the row, you have to fight to avoid rotation and this adds an extra challenge.
The final benefit comes in the form of a bilateral deficit. Some research has pointed to a human's inability to produce the same amount of force with two limbs acting together compared to each limb acting separately.
For example, if you were to sit down on a leg press machine and complete the most amount of weight you could for one repetition on your left leg and then completed the same on your right leg, the sum of these two efforts would be greater than what you could muster with both legs acting together.
This means there could be some strength potential left in reserve when completing only bilateral movements.
How To Implement
Upper body movements will be a little easier to jump into. Start with a single-arm row with both feet on the ground. Once you gain comfort with this movement, take the opposite side leg off of the ground.
For your lower body, start with movements involving a split stance, change in elevation, or using some form of an assist. As your comfort builds, then try to progress to more free-standing variations.
Your Next STeps
Do you feel like you are sliding backwards with your fitness and see your goals moving further and further away? Have a few extra lbs tacked on due to quarantine and you are looking to right the ship? When you begin the process as a Custom Training athlete, the whole experience is catered to you, your resources, goals, and availability. Our on-boarding process takes you through a tactical approach to design a training program best fit for your needs. The best part is that you can participate completely remotely and from anywhere in the world. Take these next steps to optimize your fitness.
Step #1: Performance QUestionnaire
To start your journey, we have you fill out a comprehensive performance questionnaire. This is going to help us learn about your goals, resources, and what you look to achieve from your training. Completing this form is the first step of your custom training process.
Step #2: Performance Assessment
This is where we get moving! The performance assessment is going to review your movement capabilities for both injury prevention and athletic performance. This will help us pinpoint strengths and weaknesses we can help you with and build out a foundational phase of training.
Step #3: Start Training
The final step of the on-boarding process is a kickoff phone call. During this call, we discuss your assessment findings, how we plan to help you improve, and answer any questions you have. We will also review your first phase of training and then you will be off and running! Not sure you are ready commit, you can complete the performance questionnaire, performance assessment, and phone call free of charge!
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