Part 1 of 5, this blog series will detail commonly missed exercises from your everyday gym session. I hope to shed some light on the rationale behind each exercise and how to perform the movement correctly.
#1 - Unilateral Movements
Perhaps not many of you will understand what I mean by "unilateral strength training" but will get more of a picture when I say "single arm" or "single leg". In layman's terms a unilateral movement is a movement performed by one limb. This is contrasted to a bilateral movement - a movement produced by two limbs working together. Due to our daily activities, carrying the shopping/holding a rucksack over one shoulder etc, almost everyone has a dominant and non-dominant side. Unilateral strength training therefore helps shore up your weaknesses in your non-dominant side enabling you to exert a greater amount of force in your movement. This is seen in terms of increased strength & power output.
Unilateral training makes you work harder by recruiting more muscle fibres to perform the exact same movement. For example, taking one leg out of the equation in a split squat forces your adductors and core to stabilise your pelvis. When training unilateral you automatically throw your body off balance and it has to work that little bit harder.
Performed alone, these exercises will have limited impact upon increasing strength and power but when integrated and performed alongside the 'Big 3' bilateral movements (bench, squat, dead) there are MASSIVE gains to be made.
Here are some of my top unilateral exercises that you should be doing
1.) Inverted Kettle bell walks
These are a great farmers walk variation. Choose a suitable weight (10kg), take a firm grip on the kettle bell, swing into position - arm at 90 degrees, shoulders back & chest up. A good cue is to imagine dropping your shoulder blades into your back pocket. That'll give you the correct posture. Keep your diaphragm tight and belly button pulled in. Be careful not to arch your back as this will only lead to an excessive anterior pelvic tilt - drop the wight if this occurs. Walk forward and back 10 metres. Alternatives include holding a dumbbell or kettle bell by your side.
2.) Single arm Land-mine Press
This exercise is a mix between a vertical and horizontal movement - great for individuals lacking shoulder mobility to overhead press. Also a top movement for those looking to improve their bench press figures. Start with the bar on the top of your chest/shoulder (this is the hardest part of the movement), actively squeeze the barbell which engages your rotator cuff stabilising the shoulder and push up. Reps - 8 each arm. Sets - 4.
3.) Kettle bell Split squat
This is a great way to throw your body off balance and is much harder than your standard squat as it forces your adductors and core to stabilise your pelvis. Place your back leg on a raised box/bench, keep your chest forward & sink to a suitable depth. Throw these into your sessions as 'add ons' to your main front/back squats. Reps - 8 each leg, sets - 4.
If your sessions are in a rut and you want to keep your body guessing give these exercises a try. Enjoy!