WED: Unilateral Training 101

Today we have DB step-ups on the menu and I’d like to quickly chat about why single leg work is so beneficial. After all, you we see it almost daily at this gym, so we better convince you it’s worth it.

There are two kinds of movements, closed-chain and open-chain. Training both is important to develop the kinetic chain in different manners.

Closed Chain
This type of movement puts the  arms or legs are in a fixed, unmovable position. The extremities are both firmly planted into the ground and in a fixed position against an immobile surface.

Examples include:

  • Push-Up
  • Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Pull-Up
  • Kettlebell Swing

Open Chain
Where the hands or feet are open and free moving. The opposite of closed-chain.

Examples include unilateral work such as,

  • Lunges
  • Step-Ups
  • Renegade Rows
  • Powermetrics
  • Quadruped Movement – ie, bear crawls, walkouts. These are very good at challenging movement pattern, developing thoracic mobilization, and teaching our core how to transfer force without load. They are also productive for strengthening the serratus anterior, an important muscle of the scapulae that helps stabilize the shoulder in pressing motion.

Unilateral work is the primary way in which we train open-chain movements, and builds strength from a position of instability that the closed-chain counterparts cannot. First, a lunge trains deceleration in a single-leg, an important eccentric injury prevention benefit. Second, the single leg or arm stance creates an anti-rotational demand unique to the open chain family of movements. Because the weight is only being moved on one side, our natural inclination will be to rotate towards the moving side.

Unilateral Work to Correct Imbalances?

It is common to promote unilateral work as a way to correct imbalance and prevent injury. While this is true, it is important to understand that asymmetries in the body’s structural make-up are inherent and there is no such thing as perfect symmetry.

A good rule of thumb is if there is a discrepancy that is greater than 10% between dominant and non-dominant side, then it is significant enough to warrant correction through training. Anything below 10% is a natural part of human asymmetry. For example, if your dominant side can perform a 100# Turkish Get-Up, it is acceptable for your non-dominant side to perform 90#. Anything less would be too great of an imbalance for us to consider acceptable.

Hit unilateral work as often as you can and you’ll be placing a check mark next to a very important column.


Wednesday, 3.21.18

First, For Strength
5 Push Jerks @60-80%
5/s DB Step Ups
Complete 1 set every 4′ for 16′

Then, For Conditioning.
3 Hell Trots
150m Run
(x10 Min)

Then, to Finish.
30″ on/30″
Farmer’s Hold