Monday, December 21, 2015

Use More Unilateral Movements in Your Workout for Greater Gains


Unilateral movements are simply training only one arm or one leg at a time to complete a movement. Unilateral exercises are primarily done with dumbbells and/or machines.

Unilateral Leg Press

Unilateral Preacher Dumbbell Curl

Why can you expect greater gains? Science tells us you can move approximately 20% more weight using unilateral movements than you can lift using bilateral movements. For example, let’s assume you can curl 100 pounds using both arms for 10 reps. You can probably lift a minimum of 55 pounds on each side for the same number of reps when training one side at a time. Or using 50 pounds in each hand you can likely hit 12 reps per hand instead of 10.

The reasons you can lift 20% more unilaterally aren’t exactly clear. But there are several theories.

1.     The arm in use is keenly aware that no one is coming to the rescue.(More likely, the central nervous system is aware)
2.     Using two arms provides an innate and automatic balancing apparatus. When using only one arm, more stabilizing muscle fibers are automatically pressed into service, adding power.
3.     Your body will naturally assume a posture or position that provides more advantageous leverage.
4.     All of the above

Unilateral exercises are also an excellent way to bring up lagging muscles and for many rehab situations by being able to use different weights for each limb.

Regardless of the reasons, the fact is it works. You are able to increase the work performed by 20% and that leads to greater gains in both size and strength.

Need help with suggestions for unilateral exercises. Contact me at or in the comment section below.

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