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Single-sided exercise

What is single-sided exercise?

Single-sided or ‘unilateral’ exercise is when you work on one side of your body at a time. Whether this is alternate leg squats or a single-arm overhead press, by working just one side of your body, you are giving your body a really effective work out.

Studies show that single-sided exercise helps increase muscular balance, improves core strength and assists in injury rehabilitation. It is commonly accepted that everyone has a stronger side and a weaker side, so by exercising one side at a time, you are not allowing the stronger side to dominate.

Kettlebells exercise

How to do single-sided exercises

Don’t choose the heaviest weights you can lift. For single-side exercises, it is important that you get the posture and technique correct first. Choose a weight that allows you to perform the exercise perfectly then go for more reps, rather than heavier weights.

Go weak side first. If you exercise on your strong side first, you will have less ‘left in the locker’ for when you come to your weaker side. Start your training on your weak side, then seek to match the number of reps/time/ weight results with your stronger side.

Use both free weights, body weight and machines for a varied work out.

Free weights are the obvious choice for this type of workout. You can isolate a limb and a muscle by targeting your exercise with a dumbbell. However, you can also use body weight in the same way – one-legged squats or press-ups on an uneven surface for example. With machines, you can simply use just one side  – think of using a single leg when doing a leg press for example.

Some examples to get you started

Split squat:

Stand tall with your hands on your hips. Take a large step forward with one leg and stand on the ball of your back foot. Bend at the knee to lower your body until the back knee is almost touching the floor. Extend the knee and hip of the front leg until you return to standing. Repeat for 20 reps, then change sides.

Single-leg deadlift

Balance your foot, making sure your knee is soft. With your other leg lifted behind you try to make a straight line from ankle to ear. hinge forward from your hip, while lowering your hands to your grounded foot. Imagine trying to push an object away with your back foot and drive the grounded foot into the floor. Shoulders and hips should remain symmetrical. Pause, then return to standing upright. Do the required amount of reps, then switch legs.

Renegade row

Start in a high plank position with wrists under the shoulders and the body in a straight line. Place a dumbbell under each hand. Gripping the dumbbell in the right hand, pull it up to your chest, push through the left hand as you perform this move. Row the weight upwards until the weight touches your chest and the elbow is higher than your torso. Then lower to the ground. Repeat for the required number of reps then repeat on the other side.

Single-arm overhead press

Stand tall and engage your abs. Position a  kettlebell to the side of your shoulder, elbow and wrist. Press the weight overhead until your arm is straight. Slowly lower back to the shoulder. Repeat for the required set number and then do the same on the other arm.

(Training tips sourced from Women’s Fitness magazine. For any advice and guidance on this form of training, please contact one of our personal trainers in the Outlooks Gym or Free Weights Gym.