Benefits Of Unilateral Exercises + the best unilateral training for moms
Unilateral training uses primarily one side of your body. Learn more about the benefits of unilateral exercises, and which ones are best for moms.
I’ve no doubt that as a mama, your workout time is precious. This means you need your workouts to be quick (like these fast, and effective at-home workouts) and effective. You don’t have time for hour-long workouts.
And while I am a sucker for big exercises that hit a variety of muscle groups, unilateral training is more direct and sometimes the best course of action.
Unilateral exercises will not only help your gym performance but are practical for day to day activities too.
The Benefits Of Unilateral Exercises
As moms, we’re a bit imbalanced in the muscle department. This comes from carting around a babe all day in the same arm. Naturally, your body adapts leaving one side stronger than the other (which is also why I recommend placing focus on training the posterior chain)
We also tend to pick up bad postural habits. Since unilateral training forces your core to work overtime, these habits are often improved. The core muscles- specifically the glutes- are crucial in preventing back pain (check out why you may have back pain here).
The major benefits of unilateral exercises are that they recruit the core muscles more than bilateral training. This happens as your body has to resist falling over. The ability to keep yourself upright, stable & balanced is your core functioning.
Improve Your Core
Single limb work requires a lot of stability (exercise dependent of course). And this demand for stability means that your core musculature (your entire core not just your abs!) needs to step up its game and help.
The purpose of your core muscles are to resist movement. Their job is to basically keep you from falling over (which is why these are poor ab exercises for new moms).
Unilateral training makes your core stronger. Most unilateral exercises will challenge your ability to be upright, thus directly hitting your core.
Correct Muscle Imbalances
While I love training bi-lateral movements like the squat, it’s really easy for one side of the body to take over for another. This is even more prominent in upper body exercises.
One side of the body normally can’t lift or perform as well as the other (think of the arm that carries the baby all the time versus the other arm- huge imbalance). These muscles get away without improving because the other side takes over.
Unilateral exercises don’t allow this to happen as much. Training one side at a time forces your body to become more balanced and well rounded.
If your correcting muscle imbalances, improving your core muscles, and generally getting stronger, it only makes sense that your injury risk will be less!
One of the benefits of unilateral exercises is that you become stronger and more capable. When your body is performing optimally your risk of injury decreases because you’re using proper movements and muscles.
If you’re looking to become stronger & prevent injuries you should add unilateral exercises to your workout routines
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The Best Unilateral Exercises For Moms
The most effective unilateral exercises are the ones you’ll actually do! below are my favorite ways to train unilaterally however there are many others.
My suggestion is to pick 3-4 exercises and work them into your training programs each and every week. If you need some examples, you can follow along with my full-body workouts at home for busy moms. Almost every one of the at-home workouts will have some unilateral training in them!
Or, you can peek my YouTube channel. This is where I post follow-along videos if you need the tips for proper form- do the workout with me!
Exercise #1 Single Leg Squat To Marker
How often are we standing up/sitting down while trying to balance something? This exercise is amazing for hitting not just your legs but your entire body in one of the most primal movements: the squat.
This single-leg variation requires a ton of stability. Many people avoid it for fear that they will be unable to stabilize their knees (learn more about strengthening your knees). But the trick isn’t avoiding it, it’s both strengthening the glutes as well as making use of a marker (bench).
The better you get, the lower the bench or marker can go. Or, begin by using assistance like TRX straps so you have complete control of the resistance placed on the leg.
TRX is one of my favorite pieces of at-home workout equipment
Because they allow us to target so much more than bodyweight exercises. They’re an amazing tool for unilateral training and strength development.
Other amazing unilateral leg exercises would include:
- Lunges of any kind
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Crossack Squats
Exercise #2 Single Leg Glute Bridge
Strong glutes come with an insane amount of benefits (read why you should train glutes here). And of course, the glute muscles look good when strong too!
This single-leg, gluten bridge variation is perfect to get your bum firing. Make sure you lead with the glute though and not your low back
If you’re really serious about improving your glutes, you can check out a few of my favorite glute exercises here). I’d also recommend purchasing a green mini band. Because for a couple of bucks there’s so much you can do (use code mamabearfit to save some money)!
Exercise #3 Unilateral Hamstring Curl
Hamstrings are both a knee flexor and a hip extender- they’re pretty important. On top of their functions, hamstrings are prone to injury.
Keep the back of your legs strong and not only will your posture improve but your chance of injury will decrease.
This unilateral exercise isn’t easy, but it is effective!
Exercise #4 Single Arm Shoulder Press
As a mama, our shoulders get a workout each and every day! The truth is, just carrying your babes is a unilateral workout 😛
Chances are, you carry your babes on one side more often than the other. This is fine, except that it creates a bit of an imbalance.
Make sure both of your shoulders are strong by performing this single-arm press.
This upper body exercise helps keep your shoulders strong. It also requires a lot of stability to keep the body upright and in good posture.
Other amazing upper-body unilateral exercises are:
- single-arm row (in any variation)
- single-arm rear delt fly
- unilateral shoulder mobility drills
Exercise #5 Single Arm Farmers Carry
I freaking adore farmers carries. There are so many ways to do them. They are also one of the most functional, and effective core exercises I know of.
You actually do farmers carries all the time (say what!?). When you carry your babes in a car seat! Only chances are, you do this by leaning into your body versus standing upright.
To make this task easier.. train it! Strengthen the muscles to make the day to day task easier. And training them individually will keep you more balanced.
Don’t forget to pin these unilateral exercises & their benefits for other busy moms!
Training unilaterally is one of the best ways busy moms can prevent injury. Work 1-2 unilateral exercises into each of your training programs and reap the benefits of being strong.