Yes, I love deadlifts and squats ! But …. for a strong, balanced and injury free athletes single leg work, also known as unilateral work is very important to work on the imbalances throughout both sides. I believe a good program should always integrate unilateral work. Examples are Lunges & Split Squats. (See below for more)
Why is unilateral work important to have in your training program?
Strength, stability & improve muscle imbalances and most of all help prevent injuries.
Improved Joint Stability
These exercises will increase muscle control, proprioception and strength, all of which help stabilise the joints and assist the connective tissues which then supports the movement. Joints like the knee, hip and ankle require lots of control, stability and mobility especially at the hip to allow movement properly under loads.
Minimise injury risk
In addition to increased stability, unilateral lower body exercises (see below) can help isolate and address any muscular and/or movement imbalances. This can go unnoticed on a person during bilateral training. Often overuse injuries can occur due to these imbalances if they are not properly addressed.
As discussed above, unilateral like split squats exercises can address any movement imbalances that may be present. Many of these are masked by bilateral training and therefore if present should be addressed to increase injury resistance and maximise overall muscular development and strength.
Increases in muscle activation due to unilateral exercises can result in greater muscle hypertrophy and strength acquisition. Athletes can use Unilateral training to target deficiencies within muscles size/ strength while simultaneously improving strength and performance.
How to implement Unilateral and Bilateral training into your workouts?
It’s important to include both bilateral and unilateral lower body training into your program to improve fitness or performance. The most important thing to consider when selecting bilateral or unilateral lower body exercises is what is your number one goal? Do you want to maximise your strength? Do you want to improve your balance, core strength, or stability? Are you recovering from an injury and looking to strengthen an isolated joint or muscle group? Ask yourself these questions before get training.
I believe you should combine both bilateral and unilateral training in the same training session. After completing a dynamic warm up, start with a compound bilateral exercise such as a squat or deadlift. It is important to do these exercises while mentally and physically fresh, they are more taxing than unilateral exercises. After completing one to two compound bilateral exercises, add in one or two unilateral exercises
Six of my favourite Single Leg Exercises for your workouts
- Bulgarian Spilt Leg Squat
- Reverse Lunges
- Single Leg Deadlift
- Single Leg Hip Thrust
- Step up
- Pistol Squat
Do the classes or program you’re currently doing include any of these single leg exercises?
Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram page to see these exercises over the next 6 weeks.