The Importance of Unilateral Training.

By Chris Roccisano

Unilateral training is training limbs individually, rather than engaging both sides of the body together. Training this way is highly beneficial in many ways.  Let us start with a quick little study that was published 2004 in the Journal of Applied Physiology. In 1984, Miss Emily M. Brown squeezed a rubber bulb 10 times as hard as possible with her left hand.  She then spent the next thirteen days training her right hand, performing ten maximal contractions each day. When the strength of her left hand was retested thirteen days later, the strength had increased by 43%. Seeing as Miss Brown had only trained her right hand, the authors of the report could only conclude that somehow the training of the right hand had created strength gains in the left. (Carroll, Herbert, Munn, Lee, & Gandevia, 2006) we now know a lot more about this though the study of motor control. (No more studies for now…)

When it comes to strength, the whole is usually less than the sum of its parts. In most cases the total strength of both of your limbs used together is actually less than the sum of the strength of the individual limbs. (Kuslikis, n.d.) This is how unique our bodies are, normally we would think that if two things were working as one they would be stronger but unfortunately, this is not true and is known as “bilateral deficit.” Which mean we need to work individual limbs through unilateral exercise. Everyone has a weak side and by performing only bilateral exercise, your dominant side keeps compensate for your weaker side and furthering the imbalances that could potentially cause injury later in time.

So what can we do? - Unilateral exercises will allow you to train away the deficiency in the weaker side.  When doing these exercises start with the weaker side, after working that side to fatigue do the same number of reps on the stronger side. While you will not be working to fatigue on the stronger side, you will be bringing the weaker side up to meet it, enabling you to strengthen both sides equally as you go forward. (Kuslikis, n.d.)

The good news when doing this type of training is there is no strength loss as the stronger side keeps getting the benefit in the same way Miss Emily M. Brown did, squeezing that rubber bulb. On top of getting the strength more even across the body doing unilateral exercise, it also improves core strength and stability this is because when performing anything with one limb or side you are automatically throw you off balance, and whether you know it or not your body has to recruit muscles that help support you in keeping your centre. Developing these core muscles is important for developing balance and stability, protecting your spine, and cultivating integrated, functional strength. (Kuslikis, n.d.)

Day-to- day activities rarely require bilateral movement. Kicking a footy to carrying groceries is some examples of unilateral movement. Even walking and running are, at their core, unilateral movements. (Kuslikis, n.d.) In conclusion, if you start picking up the slack on your weaker side, you will help your overall strength in perform all elements of CrossFit. Like always if you would like to know more and find out about some different types of exercises please come see one of the coaches for information as there are many great things you can do in the gym before and after class.

Like always have a great rest of the week
Ciao For Now
Be Awesome
Coach Chris