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Use unilateral exercises to change up your workout, challenge yourself and tone your body better.
Unilateral (or one-limb) exercises provide the following benefits:
1. They are more intense than bilateral exercises. Therefore, you will burn more calories during a workout with more unilateral exercises. According to research, you use more muscle fibers training with upper body unilateral exercises.
2. If you need to improve your balance, do more unilateral exercises. It is difficult to step up on one leg and lift your body weight.
3. Unilateral exercises force each arm and leg to do its share of the work. This will also help correct muscular imbalances.
4. Research indicates that core muscles are heavily recruited during unilateral work. For example, the obliques and quadratus lumborum are heavily activated in the single-arm press and the obliques, spinal erectors and multifidus are heavily activated during a single-arm row.
Spice up your workouts with the following exercises:
1. Incorporate many one-legged exercises such as step ups, lunges, single legged squats, single legged medicine ball exercises, etc.
2. Include exercises with your eyes closed to improve limb position sense (proprioception). This will also help you burn more fat and calories.
3. Exercise your body in all three planes of motion to improve multi-planar balance. An example would be a grouping of walking lunges, side lunges and transverse lunges.
4. Exercise on different surfaces such as grass, sand and soft surfaces to add more challenge.
5. Do combinations of one-armed and one-legged exercises such as single leg squat-to-single arm shoulder press.
6. Jump rope every day using different variations---one foot, alternating feet, shuffle, etc. Jumping rope is one of the best body coordination exercises out there. And, speed jump rope burns even more fat.
7. Use plyometric exercises such as single-legged hops, bounds, skips and jumps to blowtorch body fat and sculpt your body faster.
Challenge yourself more and watch the fat melt away!
Mark Dilworth, BA, PES, CPT is a Certified Personal Trainer and former NCAA Division I athlete.