A Case For Unilateral Exercises
Some of you may be wondering "if the big 3 are the kings of all exercises, why the hell do we need unilateral (single limb) exercises in our work out routines?!" For those of you who only train heavy, doing unilateral exercises can greatly benefit your progress. Doing unilateral (single limb) exercises such as lunges, dumbbell presses, and dumbbell rows can help you develop symmetry, improve your core strength and your stability, improve range of motion, and much more! In this article I explain reasons why everyone should consider incorporating unilateral exercises into their training.
1. Symmetry And Muscular Balance
Many individuals do not understand the idea of "structural integrity". This idea is about developing the body entirely in order to keep the structure strong and functioning properly. Unilateral exercises allow individuals to train muscle groups more efficiently when regarding symmetry. When you squat you will always have a leg that is stronger/longer than the other, and when you bench press you will always have an arm stronger/longer than the other. Unilateral work can help individuals develop the strength, mass, and power of each limb individually in order to get them as symmetrical and balanced as possible.
2. Core Strength And Balance
It is a no brainer that the less base of support you have, the less balance you will have. This means that your stabilizer muscles and your core (also a stabilizer) will have to work much more in order to perform an exercise. Developing your stabilizers can help you improve your physique by building the muscles you are not used to stimulating. Plus, there is nothing wrong with improving your abdominals, right? Developing your core and balance will be of great benefit to athletes, but even recreational lifters can benefit from working on your stabilizing muscles. All strength starts at the core.
3. Improved Range Of Motion
Many individuals have a hard time going through a full range of motion. Unilateral exercises can improve mobility by helping individuals stretch the muscles. Lunges and one leg squats can help strength the hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors. Dumbbell presses can help stretch the pectorals and shoulders farther than barbell pressing can. Dumbbell rows can provide a longer range of motion than barbell rowing because your body does not limit the range of motion (barbell touches your chest/stomach). The lengthened range of motion will improve mobility, increase potential muscle growth, and keep you injury free (injuries can occur from limiting your range of motion).
4. Easier On The Joints And Spine
When you are able to increase the stability requirement and muscle acitvation, you lower the load that you are able to use. When you are able to do more efficient work with a lower load, you are able to save the joints and spine from wear and tear.
5. Limiting Factor Is The Targeted Muscles
The big 3 lifts (the squat, bench, and deadlift) are by far the best foundation exercises for all individuals hands down, but when it comes to hypertrophy the big 3 can be limited. During a bench press, the shoulders can limit your ability to engage the pecs due to the shoulder rotation needed to bench press properly. During a squat, the legs can be limited by lowerback strength. During a deadlift, the posterior chain can be limited to any weak link in the chain (hamstrings, glutes, lowerback, shoulders, and abdominals).
As you can see, adding unilateral exercises can greatly benefit anyone from recreational lifters to elite level powerlifters. The only dilemma now is knowing how to incorporate these exercises into your workouts. If you ever have trouble with exercise selection stay tuned for an exercise selection article, check out my free work out routines, ask me on Periscope (@ahmedjabaifit), or hire a coach.