If you were dull enough to think about it, and I’m dull enough for all of us, nearly everything we do in the gym involves us using either both arms or both legs at the same time. Which is strange because nearly everything in real life involves us either favouring one side or using both sides alternately. The Big Three (squat, bench, deadlift.), are all bilateral movements as are military presses, curls, pushdowns, all Olympic lifts, bent over rows, chin ups, pulldowns and pretty much every other gym exercise you do. The thing is, running, walking, punching, kicking, throwing, climbing and other wholesome sporting activities are, in the main, unilateral.
Some years ago the same thought occurred to some sports coach in some God-forsaken backwater and Unilateral training was born. It was new, it was shiny, it probably had some science and a ton of graphs and it promised the world. 20% increases in strength, size and libido were guaranteed after doing unilateral workouts for a month. There was a book, a DVD, probably several fan-sites, maybe people named their children after their favorite unilateral exercises. It all got a little silly, and then like all fads it got discredited and vanished, never to be herd of again. Until now.
The Unilateral promise. For any believers out there I have a flying castle for sale.
Lets get this over with. Unilateral training won’t increase any of your 1RM’s (1 rep max), nor will it turn you into a Greek God or pay off your credit card. However, it will increase your ROM (range of movement) and stiffen up your stabilizing muscles. Which in turn then might allow you to shift a little more weight, which then might get you a little more buff looking. As an absolutely worst case scenario it will give you some exercise variety and that’s no bad thing at all.
Here is a list (yay, a list!) of some good unilateral exercises to try out. I think they work best if done as an accessory after your main lift. Keep the reps up, the rest down and enjoy the battering it gives your abs.
Dumbbell 1 arm shoulder press
Dumbbell 1 arm bench press
Most kettlebell exercises
These are all good exercises that are worth chucking into your sessions from time to time. I used the 1 arm dumbbell bench press as part of my routine today. It went something like this:
Foam roller bench press – stick a foam roller under your t-shirt and do bench press. The foam roller limits your ROM which allows you to lift more weight. This was my max effort exercise and I ramped up the weight, over billions of sets, to 160kg. This seems to be a sticking point for me at the moment, I need another plan of attack if I’m ever going to get my ultimate goal of 180kg.
Floor press – nothing gives you titanic triceps of terror like floor presses. 4 sets of 10 at around 120kg.
One arm dumbbell bench press – great ab exercise, great tricep exercise, great for shoulder stability and it probably hits the chest a little bit also. 4 x 10.
Dumbbell pullovers – more triceps. 4 x 15.
Pushdowns – yet more triceps. 4 x 15.