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Simple Unilateral Circuit + Why You Should Be Doing Unilateral Exercises

Today I’m sharing a simple unilateral circuit that can be added on to the beginning or end of your workout to help you increase balance and stabilization, improve muscle imbalances, enhance proprioception and promote good functional movement. I frequently include unilateral exercises into both my clients training plans and my own due to their benefits.

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

What are unilateral exercises? 

Any movement that isolates one arm or leg working at a time.

Why should you include them into your workout mix? 

There are three primary reasons that I work unilateral movements.

1. Balance and Stabilization

Unilateral exercises naturally provide a balance challenge. You will find yourself leaning in various directions to compensate for the movement so you have to be hyper-aware of how you compensate in order to build better movement patterns. Unilateral movements recruit the core as it is the “trunk of your tree.” By adding them to your workout you’ll work core strength, improve your balance and become more stable in joints like the ankle, knee, hip and shoulder.

2. Improve muscle imbalances. 

It’s just a fact of life that we all tend to have a stronger and weaker side. When performing traditional exercises, it’s easy to let your stronger side compensate for your weaker side. When working unilateral movements, you come face-to-face with these imbalances and you’re forced to become aware and address them. I am always amazed by how different my sides are! It’s definitely a testament to why you should be doing these exercises.

3. Improve proprioception. 

Proprioception is understanding your place in space. Put in simpler terms, it’s being aware of how your body is moving and where it is. I can’t tell you how common lack of proprioception is. For example, in yoga I cue “square your hips” ALL THE TIME but nine times out of ten a student’s hips are still out of alignment even though they firmly believe that they’re squaring their hips. I even find this in my own practice and have to self-check all the time. Unilateral movements help improve your proprioception.

4. FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT! 

Unilateral exercises are just part of functional movement and day-to-day life. Think about how often you’re doing something with one hand or one leg. Examples…when you run you are performing unilateral movement. One foot strikes the ground at a time. When you screw in a lightbulb or reach to grab something you are often using one arm.

How to add them to your workout routine. 

Today I’m sharing a quick unilateral circuit that includes both upper and lower body exercises. It can easily be added to your warm up or as a finisher with any workout you’re doing and it only takes about 10-15 minutes to get through. You can also just sprinkle unilateral movements into your workout by doing things like single arm shoulder presses, single arm rows, single arm chest press, single leg squats, single leg deadlifts…the list goes on and on!

Simple Unilateral Circuit

A unilateral upper and lower body circuit that can be added to any workout to improve balance and stability and address muscle imbalance.

Video Demonstration of Exercises

 

Let me know if you have any questions and as always, your feedback is welcome and appreciated!

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Linda April 20, 2016, 10:16 pm

    Too Funny! I was at the Perform Better One Day Seminar in Charlotte last weekend and Mike Boyle talked about the importance of unilateral work!

  • 2
    Rebecca Strength and Sunshine April 21, 2016, 1:54 am

    I am a huge fan of single leg (pistol) squats and uneven push-ups!

  • 3
    Ashley April 21, 2016, 6:25 am

    Looks like a good one! I don’t have the best balance, but I’ve been working hard on progressing to pistols and doing one-legged deadlifts a lot.

  • 4
    Samantha April 21, 2016, 9:40 am

    There is actually an awesome study on rowers and unilateral strength vs bilateral. Try to find it- basically the results were they are able to produce greater strength and force due to their unilateral strokes!

  • 5
    Remi April 21, 2016, 4:30 pm

    This was a great post! I realized most of my workout is bilateral movements, so this was quite the eye-opener. I also loved how clear an concise the video was! (:

  • 6
    Lacey April 21, 2016, 5:54 pm

    Love this post! Thank you for the video demonstration.

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