5 Great Unilateral Exercises

Unilateral Exercises

Benefit of Unilateral Training

By now, y’all have probably noticed that I’m a big fan of simple, compound movements when it comes to weight lifting. However, sometimes doing the same exact barbell exercises gets boring. You might also start to notice some imbalances in your body after you start lifting (I know I did). It’s pretty natural to have one side of your body that’s more dominant that the other (this is probably why the whole world is not ambidextrous). And that dominant side might start taking the lead on your compound movements, so it keeps getting stronger while your non-dominant side lags further behind, leading to a greater muscle imbalance.

Muscle imbalance won’t kill you (I don’t know, WebMD probably says it will), but it can make you much more prone to injury. Plus, aesthetically speaking, you don’t want a right Arnold bicep and a left Bieber bicep. Just kidding, muscle imbalances are never that apparent. Actually, I’m pretty sure they’re not visually noticeable to anyone besides yourself. Injuries, though, are not fun.

So, what’s a girl (or guy) to do? Incorporating some unilateral exercises into your routine can help ensure you’re working both sides of your body evenly. As an added bonus, they engage your core and work those abs since they’ll be requiring a lot more balance. The downside? These exercises are real ego-killers. Especially if you’re like me and have the focus and coordination of a four year old hyped up on sugar. The exercises are going to force you fully engage all of your stabilizing muscles and they can be very difficult with even a small amount of weight.

There’s an endless list of exercises that have unilateral variations, but below are a few of my favorites. Under each exercise name there’s a short video explaining form from someone much more knowledgable and coordinated than me.

Bulgarian Split Squat

This is one of my all time favorites, and I feel like it’s helped me improve my regular back squats too.

Single Leg Deadlifts

These look much simpler than they are! You can do them with a kettlebell like in this video, but you can also use dumbbells.


You’ll really feel this one in your core!

One Arm Dumbbell Row

This is probably the unilateral exercise you see used the most often.

Single Arm Overhead Press

Great for building up your shoulders – just be sure you don’t lean!

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