Many of the exercises we program in the Academy workouts here at GPC would be considered unilateral exercises. A unilateral exercise isolates or focuses the movement through one side of the body at a time. For example, instead of performing a normal Deadlift, an athlete would perform a Single Leg Deadlift. When we look at an upper body movement, like a Push Up or a Bench Press, a unilateral alternative could be a Half Kneeling Single Arm Press using a cable column.
The mechanics of the unilateral movement are often very similar to the bilateral (or “2 legged” or 2 “armed”) version in this case, but often require more attention to detail to prevent compensation and they often elicit many different responses from the body as a result of the variation in movement. For example, if we look at the push up or bench press mentioned above, both of these movements will still require a level of trunk stability and upper body strength to perform well, but both primarily take place in a short linear range of motion. If we compare these to a half kneeling cable press, not only is the exercise easily adaptable with regards to exercise position (half kneeling in this case), but it also allows the athlete the opportunity to add variations that include rotation as well when the time is right. The stability required from the lower body and the rotation around that stable base with the upper body when in the half kneeling position relates directly to the requirements of an efficient golf swing.
Adaptability is one clear benefit of training unilaterally, and these exercises can often be varied to become more demanding than the bilateral counterparts as well. Challenging balance, coordination, body awareness, and improving general overall symmetry from right to left throughout the body are just a few more benefits of training one side at a time.
Next time you’re in the gym, ask yourself what percentage of your exercises require you to train unilaterally? If you find yourself relying on two hands or two feet most of the time, I encourage you to explore the benefits of training one side at a time!