Here Are My Favorite Unilateral Exercises For Strength & Vanity
When it comes to people who want to hire other personal trainers or me, one of their main goals is sexiness. They want to lose fat, put on muscle, and have their clothes fit better. It’s not to say there are other goals; it is just that vanity is an important goal.
And why shouldn’t it be because lifting weights doesn’t tickle, and you want to see some benefit from it?
Regarding lifting, bilateral strength exercises need to form most of your workouts because this is where you will get most of your strength and vanity gains. But unilateral training often gets neglected in the quest to get stronger and for more sexiness.
Unilateral training helps strengthen imbalances, reduces injury risk, and improves strength and sexiness. Here are the five unilateral exercises that do all this and more.
3 Benefits of Unilateral Exercises Besides Vanity
Strengthening one side at a time will improve muscle, improve your bilateral lifts, and reduce your risk of getting hurt in the gym. Here are four important benefits of unilateral lifting.
Better Muscle Development
Due to activities of daily living and lifting with two hands or two feet on the ground, most people have a dominant and non-dominant side. If one side consistently works harder, these strength imbalances may lead to injuries. Reducing these imbalances will reduce your injury risk and improve your muscular development.
Improved Core Strength
While lifting one side at a time, you automatically throw your body off balance. This requires your core muscles to engage to keep you balanced. It’s not like you see the muscle working, but you feel them working.
Improve Activities of Daily Living
Many daily living activities require unilateral movements. Whether it’s throwing, jumping, or taking the stairs, it’s rare for both feet to be on the ground simultaneously when you’re moving. Training your body in the gym for this means you’ll be better at doing it outside of the gym.
5 Unilateral Exercises For Better Strength and Improved Sexiness
The Suitcase carry will strengthen grip imbalances between hands and improve your core strength. You’ll notice that holding the dumbbell or kettlebell on one side pulls your torso to one side. That’s called lateral flexion, and the oblique muscles work to prevent this, which makes this a critical exercise to train.
Muscles trained: Forearms, shoulders, upper back, and glutes.
Benefits: You’ll be able to open the pickle jar with both hands. But seriously, you’ll improve the strength imbalances of your hands and shoulders.
How to do it: Begin with a load of about 25-50% of your body weight. Pick up a dumbbell/kettlebell, crush the handle, and check to ensure you’re not titled to one side. Walk straight, putting one foot in front of the other while swinging the opposite arm. Swap hands and repeat on the other side.
Programming suggestion: Pair with an exercise that doesn’t require much grip strength, like a squat or a press. For example,
1A. Dumbbell Floor Press 6-12 reps
1B. Suitcase Carry 40 yards on both sides
Half-Kneeling Landmine Press
There are plenty of landmine press variations, with the half-kneeling one giving you some extra bang for your buck. The arc of the landmine press, the half kneeling position gripping the fat end of the barbell, improves shoulder strength and hip mobility and increases your grip strength. The half-kneeling landmine press is a more joint-friendly option, enhancing strength and sexiness imbalances between sides.
Muscles trained: Glutes, triceps, shoulders, and chest.
Benefits: The half-kneeling press trains core stability and hip mobility, and the pressing of the bar provides anti-rotational core benefits.
How to do it: Get into a half-kneeling position with the barbell in front of you. Pick up and grip the barbell on the opposite side of the downed knee with it just in front of your shoulder. Reach forward at the end of the movement. Slowly lower back down and reset.
Programming suggestions: Perform as your main press movement for the day for 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 12 reps between sides
Dumbbell Floor Press
The dumbbell floor press reduces the range of motion and limits shoulder external rotation, which can be a problem if shoulder issues exist. This reduced ROM focuses more on the triceps for added strength, reduced strength imbalances, and better muscle development and sexiness.
Muscles trained: Triceps, shoulders, and chest.
Benefits: Builds chest and triceps muscles while reducing stress on the shoulders.
How to do it: Lying supine on the floor with a dumbbell beside you, roll to the side, grab the dumbbell with both hands, and then roll back. Press up with both hands, take one hand off, and get your feet in your preferred position. Slowly lower to the ground until your upper arm touches the floor, and press back up. Reset and repeat for reps.
Programming suggestion: Use this exercise or the half kneeling press but not both in the same workout. 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps work great.
The reverse lunge is one easiest of the lunge variations because you’re stepping back. This makes it a booty-builder exercise that puts less stress on your knees. This lunge variation can be loaded in various ways to build strength and muscle hypertrophy and improve hip mobility for added sexiness.
Muscles trained: Glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
Benefits: You can vary the step back to focus on the quads (smaller step back) or glutes and hamstrings (larger step back).
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with dumbbells in your hands or body weight. Then take a small or large step back with your right foot and lower your hips so that your left thigh becomes parallel to the floor with your left knee over your ankle. Keep your upper body upright and let it drift forward during the lunge. Push through your left foot and return to the starting position.
Programming suggestion: Higher reps work better here to add juice to your caboose. 8 to 15 reps on each side for 2 to 3 sets is a great starting point.
Unilateral TRX Row
This is like a row with the lot. Because its body weight, it gives your body a break from the dumbbell. The TRX single-arm row will build upper back strength and muscle, correct strength imbalances between sides, and give your core some juice. This row is easily progressed or regressed by moving your feet closer to the anchor point, further away from the anchor point, or adding load to the non-working hand.
Muscles trained: Forearms, biceps, shoulders, upper back, and oblique.
Benefits: TRX suspension trainer’s inherent instability strengthens the core and shoulder stabilizers more and strengthens imbalances between sides for better muscle development.
How to do it: Loop one TRX handle through another to form one handle and grip it tight. Then place your feet at an intensity that’s good for your fitness level. Keeping your upper body front on and shoulders down and chest up, pull yourself until the elbow is level with your torso. Slowly lower down and reset and repeat.
Programming suggestion: This is a strenuous exercise, so keep the reps moderate, between 8 to 12 and perform with control.
Unilateral exercises are fantastic because they strengthen your core and the imbalances between sides for reduced injury risk. But the best thing about unilateral exercises is better muscle development and improved fat loss potential because of the extra muscles used. This makes it all the better to flex. 😊