Lower Body Unilateral Exercises will imrpove your mobility, strength and uncover and fix major imbalances in your body and movement.
One of the best ways to overcome a plateau in traditional bilateral movements like the squat, strict press, or bench press is to incorporate more unilateral training. When you use both arms or legs, it is easy for your body to naturally compensate for your weaker side. But by training each side individually, you can not only get more from your lifts, but gain a higher quality of movement by evening out imbalances and reduce your risk of injury.
Unilateral movements also allow you to strengthen your body throughout a bigger range of motion.
Think of a strict press with a barbell, where you can only move in one plane, vs. a single-arm dumbbell Arnold Press, where you can rotate your arm throughout the entire range of motion as you press up. This rotation allows you to access a whole new range of strength, which you can then apply to any type of press you perform.
Lastly, I believe unilateral training often gets overlooked as a very powerful training tool for strength work and body composition training. When we training unilaterally we often will end up doing double the work as it will be a requirement to train both sides of the body in equal repetitions. This often means more time under tension throughout the training session since R + L as separate exercises adds up to more than doing them together in bilateral movements. Think 8 Split Squats/leg = 16 vs 8 bilateral squats.
Lower Body Unilateral Exercises
Therefore, unilateral lower body exercises contribute to any good lifter’s arsenal. If you’re weak at single-leg training, any gains in strength and competency will transfer over to bilateral training. But with so many good exercises to choose from, which single-leg movements reign supreme? Here are a selection of the best.
1. ZERCHER REVERSE LUNGE
This is an accessory movement for the squat with the additional benefit of increasing single-leg stability and strength. The Zercher position increases the contribution of the upper back (thoracic extension) and anterior core, along with increasing glute activation. Stepping back increases stress at the hips and decreases stress at the knees.
- Start with the bar in a squat rack or squat stand set at about sternum height.
- Some people prefer using a bar pad or towel wrapped around the bar to pad the arms. If you have access to a fat bar or axel bar, this is a great time to use it.
- Maintain a neutral head and spine throughout the lift. Keep the majority of the pressure centered over the front foot throughout the movement.
- Place the bar in the crook of your arms and interlock the fingers together to create a solid base (or make fists). Unrack the bar and step back.
- With one leg, step backwards into a reverse lunge, keeping the foot in line with your hip.Do not try to create a straight line between your feet; maintain your normal stance width.
- Keeping the torso upright (a slight forward lean is fine), descend under control until your knee lightly touches the ground.
- From this position, drive through the heel of the front foot and return to the starting position. Don’t allow the knee to drift too far in front of the toes or shift from side to side.
- Taking too large or too short of a step backward.
- Not maintaining control throughout the movement.
- Not touching the ground and skimping on range of motion.
- Rising up onto the toes.
- Trying to keep both feet in line with each other instead of under their respective hips, causing an unstable base of support.
- Trying to return to the start position from the lunge by pushing off the rear leg rather than keeping the majority of the weight over the front foot.