Unilateral training calls for the use of a single limb to perform movements. This is in contrast to more common bilateral training, which uses both limbs. Unilateral training is great for improving athleticism needed to dominate on the field, since it requires the ability to move uneven loads in a balanced fashion across a wide range of motion. It makes us more efficient at muscle recruitment and proprioception, while strengthening our bodies’ weak spots—which can go a long way in preventing injuries.
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Unilateral training provides great assistance work for building athletic attributes like strength, core stability and balance, all of which will improve performance in the gym and on the field. It is highly beneficial because most movements you do on the field—whether running, throwing or jumping—are single limb movements, which require the attributes mentioned above. Incorporating unilateral exercises into your training program will produce notable improvements in your strength and mobility.
Below are some exercises athletes should include in their programs to prevent injury, build strength and develop a strong core.
Neutral Grip Single-Arm Dumbbell Floor Press
This is a great exercise for chest development and core stability. The neutral grip is a natural position, so it’s better for shoulder health, which is especially important for pitchers and quarterbacks.
Single-Arm Overhead Press
To do a Press with good form and a decent amount of weight, you need to engage your core, glutes and thighs—plus upper-body muscles like your shoulders, traps and serratus anterior. This is a good exercise for athletes who are required to perform lots of overhead motion, like pitchers, quarterbacks and lacrosse players.
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These strengthen your back, shoulders and arms. They also serve as a great abdominal exercise, because they force your core to maintain stability throughout the entire range of motion, which is beneficial for heavier compound lifts you might do later on, like Squats and Deadlifts.
These lend themselves well to training programs, because they have so many variations you can use to progress. From an athletic standpoint, they’re beneficial because you can build great strength while improving balance and coordination.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
These test your balance and strengthen your posterior chain (the muscle groups involved in power movements like sprinting and jumping), while putting minimal stress on your spine compared to heavier Deadlift variations.
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Bodyweight Single-Leg Glute Bridge
This exercise strengthens the muscles involved in both power development and force absorption. They enhance your ability not only to exert force explosively but also to put on the brakes without injury when cutting, stopping and changing direction.
To counteract imbalances and simply get stronger, do unilateral work once per week. Below is a great workout to add to your program, especially if you primarily focus on bilateral exercises like Squats, Deadlifts and Bench Presses.
- Single-Arm Overhead Press: 5×8
- Reverse Lunges: 4×10 each leg
- Renegade Rows: 5×8
- Dumbbell Floor Press: 5×8
- Bodyweight Single-Leg Glute Bridge: 4×10 each leg
- Single-Leg Romainan Deadlift: 5×8