Blog Introduction: If you’re like most people, when you go to the gym, you probably gravitate toward the machines that work both sides of your body at the same time. After all, it’s more efficient to work both arms and legs simultaneously, right? Not necessarily. In fact, studies have shown that unilateral exercises (i.e., exercises that work one side of the body at a time) are more effective for building strength and balance and can also help reduce your risk of injuries. Here’s a closer look at the benefits of unilateral exercises and some examples of unilateral exercises you can try.

Benefits of Unilateral Exercises

There are several reasons why unilateral exercises are superior to their bilateral counterparts. For one, when you do a bilateral exercise (such as a chest press), your body will often compensate by recruiting other muscles to help. This can lead to muscular imbalances and an increased risk of injuries. With a unilateral exercise (such as a one-arm dumbbell chest press), on the other hand, your body can’t rely on other muscles to pick up the slack, so each side must work independently. As a result, your muscles get a more targeted workout and you’re less likely to experience imbalances or injuries.

Another benefit of unilateral exercises is that they tend to be more functional than bilateral exercises. That is, they better mimic the types of movements you do in everyday life. When was the last time you lifted something with both hands at precisely the same time? Probably never. In day-to-day life, we lift objects with one hand all the time—a bag of groceries, a child, etc.—so it makes sense to train our muscles in this way too. Doing unilateral exercises helps train your muscles to work independently, which is a skill they need in real life. 

Types of Unilateral Exercises

Now that we’ve gone over some of the benefits of unilateral exercises, let’s look at some examples of unilateral exercises you can try. Remember, these are just examples—there are limitless possibilities when it comes to unilateral exercises! 

One-arm dumbbell rows: This classic back exercise works one arm at a time, allowing you to really focus on each side independently. To do this exercise properly, be sure to keep your core engaged and maintain a strong back posture throughout the entire movement. … 

One-leg deadlifts: This move works your hamstrings and glutes—two muscle groups that are often neglected in favor of the quads—and forces them to work independently from each other. The key here is to keep your standing leg relatively straight while hinging forward at the hip and lowering your raised leg toward the ground until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings… 

Dumbbell lunges: Lunges are great for working your lower body, and by using dumbbells instead of barbells (or no weight at all), you force each leg to work independently from the other…   Shoulder presses: This move works your shoulders—one side at a time—and is great for targeting those smaller stabilizer muscles around your shoulders that don’t get much attention during bilateral moves like overhead presses… 

These are just a few exercises mentioned in this article, download Train Fitness App, a workout tracker for IOS and check out a lot more exercises. 


As you can see, there are many benefits associated with unilateral exercises. Not only do they help build strength and balance—but they can also help reduce your risk of injuries! So next time you hit the gym, make sure to add some unilateral exercises into your routine!

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