Athletes are creatures of habit and can easily find themselves stuck in a training rut that is hard to get out of. Every once in a while, you have to take a step back and re-evaluate your training efforts. Perhaps the gains you’ve been accustomed to have ceased and your physique isn’t shaping up the way you would like to see it. You’ve changed your nutrition, lowered the volume and increased the intensity, but you’ve plateaued and are getting increasingly frustrated with each week that passes. Conventional bodybuilding wisdom has led you to this point and has given you all that you currently have, but it may take an unconventional approach to your training to finally bump you over that training hurdle you’re faced with and provide you with the shock your muscles need to continue growing. This is where unilateral training, or single limb training, could be very beneficial to your training efforts.
By splitting your body in half and training each muscle group one side at a time, you are essentially ensuring that all the energy you have during each set is focused and concentrated in one particular area. This gives you a tremendous advantage in your workouts by allowing you to minimize any wasted energy and maximize the benefits of using proper form during the movement. Any momentum that may occur during bilateral training is reduced, and the added benefit of unilateral focus is the recruitment of stabilizer muscles that otherwise experience relatively low stimulation.
Feeling the Muscle
Unilateral training also offers a great benefit in learning the mind-muscle connection. Often trainers go through all the right motions yet never realize and experience exactly how the muscles should feel during the contraction phase of the movement. By specifically dialing in all your attention to one muscle or side at a time, you allow yourself more freedom to experience the lengthening and contracting of the muscle. It is a great way to learn how to control your muscles and figure out how to best display your physique come contest time.
Addressing Strength Imbalances
The average person working out and even top-level competitors eventually become well aware of any strength imbalances they have. When bilaterally training, these strength imbalances almost become hidden as the stronger side is very capable of making up for weaker side and works harder to finish and perform the movement. Due to this, the stronger side continues to get bigger and stronger, leaving the weaker side lagging behind. Perhaps most importantly, strength imbalances have been the cause of many training injuries and the subject of numerous visits to rehab and physiotherapy to correct the problem. How is it usually corrected? You guessed it, unilateral training.
When you finally strip down the fat and assess your physique, any glaring differences from side to side will be apparent and your symmetry, or lack thereof, will be in plain sight. If the differences are significant, you need to do something to correct it. By unilaterally training the affected muscle groups, just like mentioned previously in this article, you can give all your focus, attention and energy to those lagging muscle groups or slighted side, and give it a healthy dose of intensity to bring it up and correct your symmetry. No one wants to look like two different bodybuilders, and even the best posers out there can’t hide poor symmetry.
If you plan on using unilateral training to shock your body into new growth and bring up your weaker side, then you better have lots of gas in the tank. Remember, you will be essentially doubling up on the amount of work you have to do because you have to do one side then the other. For this reason, I highly suggest an intra-workout drink that contains a serving of VP2 Whey Isolate, DGC, and Beta-X. The extra workload is going to be very demanding, and your pre-workout meal may not be enough to get you through the workout. To make significant gains by using unilateral training, having the energy is of utmost importance and using this AST Sports Science super shake will definitely give you what you need.
There’s a really good reason dumbbells, and multi-handled stations were developed; it’s to provide the trainer with the opportunities to make single limb training a component of your workout. Of course, bilateral training with barbells is just as important and makes up the majority of many trainers’ programs, but hitting one side at a time may be the missing ingredient in your pursuits.
Interestingly, unilateral training usually doesn’t hit your radar until you experience injury. The urge to workout is still there so you train what you can and leave the injured side to rest. The research actually supports this as a great idea with the theory of contralateral strength transfer. Training only one side or limb at a time has been shown to positively affect the strength of the contralateral body part and gains in strength have been noted even in the untrained side/limb. This is very encouraging, and perhaps unilateral training will give you two chances at once to correct your imbalances; focused concentration coupled with contralateral strength transfer to create the perfect physique.
Sources: Journal of Applied PhysiologyNovember 2006 vol. 101 no. 51514-1522