HomeFitnessUnilateral Exercises - Smash Through Your Plateaus With Unilateral Training

Unilateral Exercises – Smash Through Your Plateaus With Unilateral Training

Unilateral Exercises

performing an exercise that utilises only one limb at a time.


How often do you go to the gym and see someone performing a barbell bench press? Every single time I bet..

How often do you go to the gym and see someone performing a single arm dumbbell press? Never…

Unilateral training has a number of huge benefits, however it’s extremely uncommon. After hitting a plateau on my barbell shoulder press (while pressing 140lbs one side was lagging behind) I decided to implement unilateral training, specifically single seated dumbbell shoulder press.

After performing this unilateral training for 3 weeks I was then able to revert back to my regular barbell press and continue to progress. Now, I do not currently use unilateral training in my routine consistently as my workout regime is based around the major compound lifts, all of which are performed with a barbell. Although whenever I feel as if I am about to plateau, encounter an injury on one particular side or feel a muscular imbalance I will switch back over to unilateral movements.

Let’s take an in depth look into the benefits:

Unilateral Exercises Benefits

Strengthen your Joints

Unlike barbells and machines, individual dumbbells are unstable; this places greater emphasis on each joints connective tissue. This tissue must adapt in order to keep up with the demand being placed upon it when you are performing unilateral exercises; therefore they become stronger due to the load instability.

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Strengthen your Core

While performing unilateral exercises your core (abdominal region & lower back) is under constant tension, if it wasn’t you’d immediately twist or fall to the side bearing the load (the dumbbell). The core workout you’ll get from stabilising a heavy weight on an exercise such as the unilateral dumbbell press or unilateral shoulder press is far greater, and more functional than that from a conventional abdominal workout consisting of crunches and leg raises.


Improve Coordination

While focusing on lifting with each individual limb far greater emphasis on coordination is apparent, as opposed to bilateral training using a barbell or machine. Unilateral training is also proven to increase muscular recruitment (also referred to as HTMU, high threshold motor units) this improvement is most noticeable in beginner lifters.

Increase Bilateral Strength

Unilateral strength gains will translate over to bilateral strength gains, as you correct any muscular imbalances or individual lagging muscles your bilateral equivalent exercises will also improve, my shoulder press mentioned at the start of this post is a prime example of this transfer.

The 2 upper body unilateral exercises I recommend you try include:

Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

What are your thoughts on unilateral training and unilateral exercises? Have you tried it before? Let me know in the comments below!

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Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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