Bilateral training vs unilateral training

there is no single right way to train. every method and approach has its upsides and downsides. in this article we are comparing two methods of training which are Unilateral training and Bilateral Training.

Bilateral training vs unilateral training

opposite to how these two words look like, they are really simple terms. Unilateral training means you are training only one side of your body, while Bilateral training is the opposite and means working both sides.

unilateral training benefits for athletes

unilateral training is more athletic and related to every day life

if you notice, you see that in every sport, majority of actions are in one side. running is the biggest example of unilateral training which requires you to use one leg at any given time, also other sports like tennis, gold, wrestling, basketball, football and etc are the same.
aside from sports, we perform most of our daily activities with one side at a time as well like washing dishes, walking up stairs and so on. keep in mind unilateral means both sides are not in a synchronous activity with each other but it does not necessary mean one side is inactive.

unilateral training makes you use your core and stabilisers

when you perform Bilateral exercises, each side counteract momentum of the other side but when you perform unilateral exercises, you have to use more core power and stabilisers to help balance yourself. unilateral workouts really help you understand your weaknesses in balance and proprioception.
also you will not be limited by your core. take biceps curl for an example, it is easier for your core to handle 15KG than 30KG.
A 2012 study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that unilateral exercises more effectively activated superficial core musculature than bilateral exercises.

unilateral training shows your weakness in each side

when you perform exercises which are bilateral, you may compensate one side weakness with other side(like in leg press or barbell curls) but when you do each side, you are able to compare them in different aspects like speed, power, endurance, balance and so on, therefore, it is the right way to train a lagging body part.

unilateral training helps with mind-muscle connection

the bigger the muscles we train, the less focus we have on the muscles. that is why it is easier to feel your biceps curl than your hamstrings. also when you work on two symmetrical muscles, you have to divide your attention to both as well but with unilateral training, you focus one by one.

unilateral training helps tall people and people with low flexibility

if you are tall or you have tight calves, it really is hard for you to do squats compared to lunges. with unilateral training you can work around these areas, although lack of flexibility is also a weakness which you should consider solving for better results.

unilateral training prevents injury and over stressing due to heavy weights

when you are doing unilateral exercises, the weight that your body handles is half compared to bilateral training. not only this helps spine, bones and other organs, it also prevents body from producing too much stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Some people will argue that there is greater force produced in unilateral exercises (when the force of each limb is summed) in comparison to bilateral exercises. This is known as the bilateral deficit. There is evidence to show this deficit does occur, but a 2006 study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology found that the difference in force production is due to the force-velocity curve. The greater the force output, the lower the velocity, and the greater the velocity, the lower the overall force output. Under the same load, bilateral exercises are able to be performed at a greater velocity than unilateral exercises. This means that greater force is produced unilaterally, because it is performed at a slower velocity.

bilateral training benefits for athletes

bilateral training is easier to perform and learn

since we do not need to use our core that much and stay focused on our balance, we can focus on what we are doing easier and learn the movement pattern fast.

bilateral training makes you stronger and efficient

although unilateral training improves weakness of one side and helps you with balance and core, bilateral training helps you learn tempo and synchronous movement of both sides in work-outs like bench press and squats which helps you lift heavier.

bilateral training helps with time management

it really is more time efficient to train both sides compared to training one side alone.