Center Your Training on Unilateral Movements

Unilateral Movement Exercises: What Are They?

The word “unilateral” means without direction or control. A unilateral exercise is one where both arms are used at the same time (or most of them). For example, if you do a push up with your right arm and left leg, it’s not a bilateral exercise because there is no joint rotation between the two limbs.

Bilateral movements involve only one limb at a time. For example, if you do a push up with your right arm and left leg, it’s a bilateral exercise because there is joint rotation between the two limbs. Bilateral exercises are useful for developing strength in different muscles of the upper body and improving balance.

However, unilateral movements can improve flexibility too! You may have heard that some gymnasts use their hands to perform handstands while others use their feet to do so. Both types of movements require some degree of flexibility.

So, what’s the difference?

When doing a bilateral movement like a push up, your dominant arm is usually going to be stronger than your non-dominant one. If you’re using just one side of your body for pushing up, then it will probably be easier for that muscle group to produce force when you use only that side. For this reason, you’re much less likely to experience muscle fatigue when you’re doing pushups one arm at a time.

Unilateral strength exercises are perfect for muscular imbalances. In the case of the push up, one side of your upper body will probably be stronger than the other, which can lead to an injury if not addressed immediately. Using the example of the push up again, if you have a stronger left side, then you can practice doing push ups with just your right arm to increase your strength in that side. Many other exercise routines involve imbalances that can be fixed by doing them one limb at a time (i.e.

jumping jacks, burpees).

Bilateral exercises are also great for general daily activities and physical exertion. These are the types of exercises that give your muscles a nice full look. With this, you can apply these exercises to improve your overall energy, stamina, and strength. For those who are looking to lose weight or tone up in general, these exercises are a great choice.

Bilateral exercises are also great for getting in a quick cardio and warm up session. As one gets older, it becomes more important to stay in good shape because of the increase in health risks that come with it. This is why it’s important to keep the heart and lungs healthy with daily exercise. Bilateral exercises are great for raising one’s heart rate and getting the blood pumping, especially if they’re done at a fast pace.

When working out, having an equal amount of strength in each limb is important. As this article touches upon, it’s almost impossible for someone to have the same strength in all limbs due to the nature of human anatomy. Since people are most likely going to be stronger on one side than the other, it’s important that they address this issue. For example, say a person is much stronger on his right side.While doing pushups or bench presses, his left side may start to give out before his right side does.

This could lead to a muscle imbalance called “cross-dominance”, in which he will have more strength in his right side. This could cause back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain in the future. In addition to physical pain, this can also cause problems with one’s mental well-being.

By doing an exercise that strengthens your left side, you are able to keep your body in balance. This will lead to fewer injuries and a longer life span. A common misconception is that exercising a certain limb or muscle group too much will make it bigger or stronger. This is rarely the case, although there are certain exercises that can cause muscles to grow at a faster pace. For the most part, humans don’t have enough testosterone in their body to build up muscle through working out alone.

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It’s always easier to start exercising by doing what you’re comfortable with. If you’re not sure where to begin, then just get out and do something. It’s better to do something than nothing at all. Below are some basic exercise videos to help you get started.

Bilateral Exercises

If you’re new to working out, then start off slow. This way you won’t get overwhelmed or hurt yourself. Go to the gym and talk to a trainer or personal trainer to go over a good beginner’s routine that’ll work for you. Get yourself acquainted with any equipment you may need for these exercises before actually using them. If you’re working out at home, then look up videos on how to use these pieces of equipment or do the exercises without them.

It’s important that you see a physician first before engaging in a new physical activity or routine just to get clearance and see if your body can even handle it.

Warm Up Exercises

Before doing any heavy lifting or fitness routines, you need to get the blood flowing and your muscles warm. Go for a short jog or just do some jumping jacks for a few minutes to get the blood moving. You’ll be surprised at how much easier the exercises are when your muscles are warm and ready to go.


After working out it’s important to stretch. This keeps the muscles long and loose. When you’re finished with your routine, hold a stretch for about 30 seconds or until you feel the burn.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Half-Kneeling Quad Stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch

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Cool Down Exercises

Just as important as warming up before a routine, it’s important to cool down after. This keeps blood flowing to your muscles and helps them relax after exertion. Plus, it feels really good. For stretching, just do some light movements after finishing a fitness routine.

Shoulder Rolls

Head Rolls

Arm Circles

Torso Twists

The following are some different types of routines to pick from. It’s always best to start off with something simple and work your way up. Don’t try to compete with others around you, instead of trying to better your old performance. That’s a surefire way to get injured and discouraged. Start off slow and increase the difficulty when you’re ready.

Finally, it should go without saying that you need to stay hydrated while working out. Unless you’re used to working out for prolonged periods of time, don’t exercise on an empty stomach. And always listen to your body. If something hurts, then stop whatever you’re doing and stretch or ice the area. Be smart and safe when engaging in physical activity.

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The following routines are great to start off with and can be easily combined with one another for a full workout.

Beginner Routine

5-10 minutes of warming up

20 minutes of cardio training (treadmill, eliptical, etc. Any activity that gets your heart rate up is good)

20-30 minutes of resistance training (weighted squats, lunges, curls, presses, whatever you feel comfortable with)

5-10 minutes of cooling down

Intermediate Routine

5-10 minutes of warming up

30-40 minutes of cardio (anything from before, but go at a higher intensity)

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30 minutes of resistance training (again, weighted squats, lunges, curls, presses, etc. Pick heavier weights than before and drop the reps to 3-5)

5-10 minutes of cooling down

Advanced Routine (this is just an example, create your own! It’s best to have a personal trainer show you the ropes though)

20 minutes of cardio training (aerobic and anaerobic)

15-25 minutes of resistance training (low weight, high reps. Pick something you’re comfortable with that you can perform for a long time)

5-10 minutes of stretching and cooling down

You should always have a day of rest after 3 exercise days in a row. This will keep your muscles from over-training and getting injured. Be sure to stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods, even on your days off.

Also, it’s a good idea to have one day of focused weight training (high weight, low reps) after two days of high intensity cardio. This will help you build up your strength and endurance and give you better results in the long run. It is not recommended to do more than one strength training session in a day due to the fatigue factor, especially if you’re just getting started.

Be sure to consult with a doctor before beginning any sort of exercise routine.

I hope this guide has helped you make a decision on which exercises to pick and how to structure your routine. Remember to have fun and stay safe.

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Sources & references used in this article:

Bilateral and unilateral arm training improve motor function through differing neuroplastic mechanisms: a single-blinded randomized controlled trial by J Whitall, SMC Waller, JD Sorkin… – … and neural repair, 2011 –

Bilateral movement enhances ipsilesional cortical activity in acute stroke: a pilot functional MRI study by WR Staines, WE McIlroy, SJ Graham, SE Black – Neurology, 2001 – AAN Enterprises

Repetitive bilateral arm training and motor cortex activation in chronic stroke: a randomized controlled trial by AR Luft, S McCombe-Waller, J Whitall, LW Forrester… – Jama, 2004 –

Unilateral versus bilateral upper limb training after stroke: the Upper Limb Training After Stroke clinical trial by ALEQ van Delden, CLE Peper, KN Nienhuys, NI Zijp… – Stroke, 2013 – Am Heart Assoc