Bulletproof your body with unilateral training

October 25, 2016

 

 

 

Unilateral training is a great way to bulletproof your body while also reducing the risk of injury. Through the practice of training one limb at a time, athleticism is improved and strength discrepancies/muscle asymmetries between the left and right sides of the body are exposed.  As an added bonus, the core is forced into overdrive to keep you from falling over while loading one side of the body.  When the body is tuned and balanced, the athlete can perform at their highest level.

 

Improves athleticism

 

Your standard barbell lifts (squats/bench/deadlift) will get you strong and build plenty of muscle. While everyone should be doing these basic compound movements, the athlete needs even more in order to be the best player that they can be.  This is because sports are dynamic and even a bit chaotic. Movement on the field or court is not always predictable. Athletes need to react to their opponents every move on a drop of dime. This is where unilateral training comes into practice and can help make an athlete stand out from others on the field/court.

 

For example, a running back needs to assess what the defense is trying to do and quickly react. He may need to put his head down and plow through a lineman for a first down or make a sharp cut to get to the outside. Elite running backs have the ability to cut to the left or right on a moment’s notice. Making this hard cut requires the athlete to forcefully push off of one leg to change direction.

 

As you can see from one simple example, it is crucial to be able to use both sides of the body effectively.  Throughout the training year, a premium should be placed on unilateral training.

 

 

 

Addresses right and left side weakness

 

We all have a dominant side that we favor. It’s evident in exercises like the bench press or chin-ups. You’ll often see one arm struggling to catch up to the dominant side. If not addressed, these subtle strength discrepancies can increase the risk of injury. As an additional detriment to athletes, they also have the ability to hinder performance. Think about it: If both arms are applying equal force, you would be much more efficient in moving the barbell from point A to point B. I’m a huge fan of incorporating DB and landmine presses to strengthen each arm individually.  There is no hiding or overcompensating. These exercise force both arms to step up and work independently of one another. Once these discrepancies are addressed, the reward will be new PRs and a stronger

performance.

 

HALF KNEELING LANDMINE PRESS

 

 

Strengthens the core

 

Whenever you load one side of the body, you're going to be off balance. Your core has to work hard and be engaged to keep you from falling over.

 

The single arm farmers carry is one of the most practical core exercises that you should be doing. It doesn’t get any simpler than picking up a dumbbell, keeping the abs tight, and walking with your shoulders back while maintaining good posture. Think of walking with an encyclopedia on your head, or an iPad for the younger generation. You need to straighten up and stop slouching. Your momma has been telling you this for years.

 

The Farmer’s carry has many real life applications. This type of training will come in handy when it’s time to bring the groceries in. Keep training them and one day you might only have to make one trip.

 

SA FARMERS CARRY

 

 

Assessment tool

 

Perform various exercises and take note of your form and progress.  For example, if you can perform a single leg pistol squat on your right leg but not on your left leg, that’s a red flag and worth investigating. You should be able to perform the movement on both legs with the same load and speed. Identifying and correcting the problem will significantly decrease the risk of injury and make you one step closer to being bullet proof.

 

 

 

SINGLE LEG BOX SQUAT (PISTOL SQUAT)

 BOWLER SQUAT

 

 

Programming

 

I like incorporating these moves after performing the big compound moves discussed above. As an example, after performing some barbell deadlifts, I might include some Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts.  

 

A few pointers include:

  • Start with your weaker side

  • Choose one to two exercises per session

  • Perform 3-4 sets

  • 6-12 reps per set

 

However many reps you perform on your weaker side you’ll need to make sure you match on your stronger side. Performing anymore will reinforce the imbalance.

 

 

 

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