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Reasons for Volume Unilateral Training – Part One

There is and has always been a trend in the fitness industry of loading and training heavy bilateral movements with great intensity and frequency. Bilateral just means that the movement you are training involves both arms or both legs. Most of these movements employ a barbell as their most frequently used tool.

There is good reason for this, after all we as humans do have 2 arms and 2 legs. Also by that logic and without exception all humans (barring an injury) can lift more weight with both arms or legs than they could just using one arm or leg. There is also the absolutely correct thought that we can add more muscle faster by lifting heavier weight in a bilateral manner.

At Efficient Exercise we don’t use the barbell as often, but we do use ARX for all of our bilateral training. This works very well with ARX because we can drive muscular growth even faster through emphasizing time under tension and the use of eccentrics/negatives or the lowering of any movement.

The only problem with this line of thinking when it comes to resistance training is that humans are bipedal movers and naturally asymmetrical creatures. In other words as we move forward through space we naturally balance on one leg while the other swings forward in order for us to step. We also do not have symmetrically distributed organs in our torso, the organs are very asymmetrical, specifically the heart is on the left and the liver is on the right. This fact has a ton of implications on how we should balance the body.

What I want to discuss and propose to you the reader is that everyone should be doing more volume training in a unilateral stance (one leg) than in a bilateral stance (2 legs).

Humans don’t move through life squaring up doing activities with both legs or arms at the same time. All sports involve locomotion, throwing, and running. Most of these activities are unilateral in action, or one side of the body is doing one activity while the other is doing something complementary but different.

If we take our mind completely out of the sports world most humans do almost all activities unilaterally. We pick things up off the ground with one hand, we grab things off of shelves, we open doors, we carry bags in one arm while opening doors with the other, etc. You see what I am trying to get at here.

If a large percentage of sports activities are done unilaterally, and almost all of human movement is done unilaterally then why would any human being spending over 50% of their time training bilateral movements in the gym while under load?

I am not saying we should not be doing bilateral movements in the gym, I am just saying that you should take a look at your overall programming and in my opinion the majority of movements in the gym should be unilateral in nature.

In our next blog entry we will break down what movements to prioritize and give you detailed examples of how to go about strengthening your unilateral movement patterns.

Bert Massey – CSCS, FMS, Onnit Foundations

2 Responses

  1. Mani says:

    You have defined very well the Bilateral exercise. Thanks for sharing an informative post.

  2. Kyle Walker says:

    These unilateral and bilateral exercises are straightforward. Thanks a lot!

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