While exercising, it is common to work out both of your limbs simultaneously. For instance, when you perform squats, you squat with both legs, and when you do overhead barbell presses, you lift both your arms together. However, you should learn to do unilateral exercises, which are single-leg or single-arm movements. The primary benefit of unilateral training is that you use both sides of the body equally, and thus avoid overusing or overworking the dominant side. Also, you stand to enjoy other benefits from unilateral training, such as improving balance, isolating and rectifying muscle imbalances, preventing injuries, and accelerating recovery.
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The following are benefits of training one side at a time with regards to enhancing your body strength and fitness:
If you have ever tried to do a one-legged squat, you can attest to the fact that it takes proper balancing of the body to manage it. Performing with only one leg frequently enables your body to build the neural circuitry that is necessary for better stability. Initially, you can do shallow one-legged squats with no weight and later on introduce a dumbbell. You may then increase the weight slowly over time. With practice and determination, you will be able to perfect the one-legged squat.
Builds core stability
Performing unilateral exercises stimulates the core muscles to keep balance. Some stabilizing muscles that do not usually get the focus they deserve are worked out. The core stabilizers comprise muscles like internal obliques, transversus abdominis, and others. They play crucial roles in stabilizing and supporting the spine, providing a shield from injuries and back pain, and improving your posture.
Boosts resistance to injury
Regular unilateral training brings into action the joint muscles responsible for stabilizing the working limbs and strengthens them. The strength gained helps guard the limb against injury on such occasions like playing various sports and lifting things. It is common to emphasize only the muscles that give rise to the movements and to overlook the stabilizing muscles that offer support for the prior muscles and maintain stability.
Having strong stabilizing muscles is crucial to prevent injuries and to help moving muscles perform in a better way. Stabilizing muscles work as the support team that enables the moving muscles to perform tasks better. Weak stabilizer muscles influence the amount of weight that you can or cannot lift.
It is crucial to develop the strength of these stabilizers to minimize injury risks while taking part in sports and while performing day-to-day activities. Stabilizers come in handy to offer balance when you bend to lift heavy things, and if those muscles are strong, the risks of falling and hurting yourself are dramatically reduced. The strength of the stabilizers is built by unilateral training.
Rehabilitating an injury
Besides preventing injuries, unilateral training helps to restore a limb after an injury. Avoiding working a limb because it has sustained an injury weakens it. However, with unilateral training, you can focus your attention on the weaker side and assist in reinstating strength to the limb that has been hurt, therefore maintaining better balance and symmetry.
Gives great attention to the muscle
Performing unilateral training makes you completely focus on the side that you are working on at that time. The total focus on one side enables you to maximize the range of motion during that training session. Also, you manage to stimulate more muscle fibers because of making the stabilizers work.
Rectify muscle imbalances
Most people have one side that is weaker than the other. For example, if you are right-handed, the left side that is non-dominant is weaker. Having a non-dominant or weaker side makes you have a muscle imbalance and heightens your risk of injury. Using unilateral training to focus on the weak side plays a crucial role in putting things in order with regard to body strength, thereby making your physique more balanced and stable.
Unilateral training helps both limbs
Surprisingly, when you train one limb, the strength on the other side increases as well. This phenomenon is referred to as muscle cross education. The muscle that you are training no doubt benefits the most, but the other enjoys some benefit from the strength workouts, even if it is not being worked on specifically. It is estimated that muscle cross education results in about 7.8% strength improvement in the untrained limb. The phenomenon applies to both arms and legs where the opposing arm or leg derives benefits from the training of the other arm or leg.
The science behind cross education is not yet clear, but one theory tries to explain that working one limb changes the neural circuits that regulate both limbs. Cross education can be put to good use in the event you have an injured leg or arm, which you should keep away from exercises. In this case, you can train the uninjured arm or leg and preserve the strength of the one with a problem.
There are several types of unilateral exercises, which include one-arm overhead presses, single- leg stiff leg deadlifts, one-arm rows, one-arm lateral raises, unilateral dumbbell curls, one-legged squats, and more. If you would like to challenge yourself, you may try a one-handed push-up. It may be a bit difficult for most people, but you can manage it with consistent training and persistence.
The benefits of unilateral training are plentiful, and you should consider including it in your routine, especially if you play sports or if you have muscle imbalances.
Guest post by Jack Botsford from steroideurope.org