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Unilateral vs. Bilateral Training

By September 20, 2018Athlete Training

In last week’s article, we discussed why single-leg exercises can be much more productive & safe for athletes over the barbell squat.

However, not all double-leg exercises can be replaced by single-leg exercises, & furthermore, unilateral & bilateral exercises each have their own unique benefits.

To help you understand how to choose the best exercises for your athlete, you should also understand the benefits of unilateral exercises & the benefits of bilateral exercises.

Benefits of Unilateral Exercises

#1 – Less Load = Lower Risk of Injury.

You can not move as much weight unilaterally, which inevitably reduces one’s risk for injury, especially in the case of the back & hip-centric exercises such as squats and deadlifts.

#2 – One Leg = Better Balance, Coordination, & Agility.

Face it: athletic movement happens one leg at a time. There’s a huge difference between the balance, coordination, and agility required to do things on a single leg than is required to do things on two legs. Unilateral training has better carry over in this regard.

#3 – Multiple Plans of Movement

Sports take place in multiple planes of movement (side-to-side, front-to-back, up-to-down, diagonally, rotationally, etc.). Bilateral movements, however, don’t. It’s all up & down. Unilateral movements, on the other hand, can take place in all of these planes.

Benefits of Bilateral Exercises

#1 – Greater Load = Greater Strength Development

The strongest people on Earth got that weight by using either both of their arms (e.g., bench press) or both of their legs (e.g., squat or deadlift) simultaneously in training. If your athlete needs to get bigger & stronger ASAP, this is the way to go.

#2 – Simplicity of Movement

While it doesn’t take 5 seconds to learn how to squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, chin-up, or barbell row, they certainly aren’t the hardest things to accomplish when done under the supervision of a respectable coach. There are less variables at play with movements like these, allowing an athlete to put the work in & get at it, instead of messing around trying to figure out how to perform the movement correctly.

#3 – Confidence, Confidence, Confidence

If an athlete can squat with 200, 300, or 400 lbs, he or she is not going to have much to fear about. The act of moving ridiculously heavy weight, whether it’s via squats or deadlifts or bench presses, is an amazing example of internal shock & awe. If you *really* think about it, you’re going to realize that this is the kind of weight that can kill someone. But it doesn’t, because you master it in these exercises. And as you do that, you realize you’re more capable than you possibly imagined.

So whether bilateral or unilateral exercises are better for an athlete totally depends on what they’re looking for in a program & what their current needs are.

That’s why every athlete needs to make sure their strength programs take in account their needs & their goals.

If you’d like to help your young one get started on an effective strength & conditioning program so that they can transform their performance & become better players, click here, and we’ll hop on the phone to set up a day & time to allow you child to try our athlete performance program.

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