Friday, August 3, 2012

Unilateral Training: Overcoming Your Weaker Side
Recently I was working out and I saw a man working out. He was bench pressing and had quite a bit of weight on the bar. Now I hadn’t seen him lift yet so my only initial thought was “Wow that is a good amount of weight.” He comes over to me and asks me for a spot so I get behind the bar give him a hand off, and what ensued made me cringe. He brought the bar down cleanly and under control but when he began to press back up his right arm skyrocketed up while his left was left hanging to struggle and barely finish the lift. This inspired me to write this particular blog.

Muscular Imbalances can impair your lifts. More often than not when lifting weight we find that one side of our body is stronger than the other, and we feel uneven from that. Whether it is our dominant hand or the other, one side always seems to be stronger. Though that’s a commonality, if left unchecked it can cause you to seriously injure yourself. So how do we compensate? We get smarter.

Many people, when they walk into a gym are truthfully looking for an ego boost. Whether it is how far they can run, how good they look, or how much weight they can lift. I’ll be the first to admit that the gym is an ego booster for me and how I look and how strong I have become adds to it, but I’m also the first to admit that the weight on the bar isn’t the most important thing, safety is. In the case of the man in the story, how can he be safer? He could lower the weight and smooth out the motion until his form is perfect under that load and has less of a chance for injury. But again this bring back ego. Not many people, particularly men, ever want   to lower the weight especially if they can “handle it.”

So the question remains, how can you improve on an exercise, and for that matter a body part, without sacrificing your ego?

I suggest unilateral training. Using exercises that evenly distribute the weight so that the stress of moving the weight is applied evenly to both limbs, rather than one limb overcompensating for the weaker one is a very effective way to break through this plateau.

So rather than screw around under a barbell bench press and make little to no gains because you’re always playing catch up with the one side, grab a pair of dumbbells and even out! This simple principle can be applied to so many exercises, and essentially every body part. I know as a bodybuilder I strive for a symmetrical well balanced physique, but anyone who is into fitness will tell you they don’t want to be unbalanced in regards to their body! Name one person who wants one arm 15 inches and the other 18? It just doesn’t happen. Unilateral training can be done using cables, dumbbells, or machines just so long as each limb being used is under individual tension. So do your compound moves like presses, rows, and squats, but try them with a twist of individual tension rather than using a barbell and see some new gains!

-Jack Lazarus

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Jack. Too many people walk into a gym uninformed and find the first machine they can to work out. Progressing to unilateral training is a great way to find new gains as well as increasing functional strength.