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  1. #1
    Registered User BeginnerGainz's Avatar
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    How important is unilateral leg training?

    Title.

    I’ve started playing around with rear foot elevated split squats and single leg presses myself but as always, I’m interested in seeing everyone else’s opinion on the subject.
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  2. #2
    Time is Muscle ECGordyn's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by BeginnerGainz View Post
    Title.

    I’ve started playing around with rear foot elevated split squats and single leg presses myself but as always, I’m interested in seeing everyone else’s opinion on the subject.
    I'd think it's pretty underrated for all kinds of reasons, but probably important and beneficial. Many people hate leg day so they want to finish as quickly as possible, they don't want to do 1 set per leg. Some love leg day for the strength and power which they only get by using both legs together. Others just don't think much about unilateral work.

    I'll be using it in my new development block. Split squats, walking lunges, and single leg RDL will be about half my leg training for a while.
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  3. #3
    Registered User leidenesLK's Avatar
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    I’d say they can be vital for some, even just from an aesthetics point of view. Some can get away with minimal upper body imbalances just by incorporating bilateral dumbbell movements, but we don’t have that luxury for legs.

    For ‘performance’, the hip stability on one leg can be helpful in revealing structural imbalances that your bilateral movements mask. It wasn’t until I started doing split squats that I discovered I lean more on my right leg, which would imply uneven force production that could also be occurring in bilateral squats and deads.

    For fatigue/overuse management, they have benefits with the significantly lower loading, giving your back some reprieve and can allow you to push the workload in other areas etc.

    Like all unilateral movements, I don’t think they’re a necessity if you aren’t experiencing asymmetrical movement/development, but rather a tool that‘s there if you need them to mitigate such issues. If you don’t want to do them, carry on until you need them, basically.
    Last edited by leidenesLK; 01-01-2021 at 12:06 AM.
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  4. #4
    CEO 10k/year Ironface's Avatar
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    I’ve never felt the need to do them, personally.

    I’m quite OCD and prefer to work both sides of the body at the same time.
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    Rows Could've Saved Jack Camarija's Avatar
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    Conceptually, the strongest argument for unilateral leg work is probably balance development, and the strongest argument against is probably fatigue management. From that point of view, it feels like you're making a choice between overall health/real world athletics versus expending extra energy to achieve that result.

    I'm curious to look into how unilateral leg work affects strength and hypertrophy. Maybe it turns out split squats can contend with squats in terms of hypertrophy and/or strength? It seems unconventional but maybe it works? From a quick look at EMG studies, probably not.

    From the point of view of knee and hip health, it seems like some level of unilateral leg work should be worth it. But to incorporate that into training would probably be on the same level I'd put face pulls into my programming - often and with relatively light weight.
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  6. #6
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    I think they are useful for injury prevention purposes in athletics. Also for general athleticism some unilateral work can be helpful.

    For strength/hypertrophy purposes I don't think they are as important with the exception when one desires to do exercises that have to be done unilaterally. For example, and I realize I state this all the time, bulgarian split squats with the front leg far in front hit my glutes harder than anything else, presumably due to a ton of tension being placed on them in the maximally stretched position. They hit my hamstrings hard too. There is no way to mimic this with a two legged movement unless one were to try to do a leg press with the feet way high up, but I'd be worried about lower back issues when doing that.

    They can also be good for seeing if you have any really significant imbalances; trying to determine why you have significant imbalances can be useful in and of itself.
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    I don’t think they’re important from a lifting perspective unless you have a particular issue you’re trying to address or enjoy doing them.

    If you don’t engage in any sports or athletic activity outside of lifting, certain unilateral exercises would add variety to movements.
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  8. #8
    Unregistered User MyEgoProblem's Avatar
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    Less axial loading
    Good stimulus:fatigue
    Great of you need the work but more big lifts would Bury your recovery.

    I much prefer walking lunges to static split squats.
    Just feel much better to me and take less time swapping legs

    I don't think they are at all neccesary for most people.
    They may suit you, may not. But I recommend testing different variations at different elevations and see whichyou really like.

    Rear elevated (low and higher)
    Front elevated (low and high)
    Standing Reverse Lunge
    walking lunges
    Step ups to various heights

    I do highrep walking lunges with a long step length and yoke/farmers carries, they are kinda similar to unilateral stuff
    Last edited by MyEgoProblem; 01-01-2021 at 08:53 AM. Reason: Horrific typos
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  9. #9
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    The instability always hurt my knees, especially the insides. I can appreciate the benefits but prefer to stabilize my one leg work by lightly involving the other leg if possible
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  10. #10
    Han shot first! TolerantLactose's Avatar
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    Theoretically, unilateral work could help with imbalances and stability if done as primary movements but I imagine most people only use them as accessory or finishers.
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  11. #11
    Unregistered User MyEgoProblem's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by TolerantLactose View Post
    Theoretically, unilateral work could help with imbalances and stability if done as primary movements but I imagine most people only use them as accessory or finishers.
    On that note..
    Many try this, bring up the muscle as a band aid fix.

    But they develop the muscle heads differently as they never address the bilateral issues that will always over power the uni work.
    And each leg (or whatever it is) still moves differently in the bi & uni work.

    In isolation. As never 'works'
    In tandem with tech fixes in big lift.
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  12. #12
    Registered User BeginnerGainz's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by MyEgoProblem View Post
    On that note..
    Many try this, bring up the muscle as a band aid fix.

    But they develop the muscle heads differently as they never address the bilateral issues that will always over power the uni work.
    And each leg (or whatever it is) still moves differently in the bi & uni work.

    In isolation. As never 'works'
    In tandem with tech fixes in big lift.
    Win.
    Precisely why I do bilateral squats of some type and single leg work as secondary.

    At home with my own BW I do mostly split squats now though.
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  13. #13
    Train hard play harder Tommy W.'s Avatar
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    It’s a good idea to do some uni leg movements from time to time to make sure each leg is equal in strength if they aren’t that needs to be rectified. Unequal leg strength can cause overall body imbalances over time.
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  14. #14
    Registered User Garage Rat's Avatar
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    IMO it is beneficial to add some kind of unilateral work in.
    Most of us us have a dominate and non dominate side so usually there is some kind of imbalance even if it's a small one.
    Also you can really focus well when doing one side like doing a concentration curl with the leg.
    The more advanced/stronger you get you would probably know where your weakness is.
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    Registered User BeginnerGainz's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Garage Rat View Post
    IMO it is beneficial to add some kind of unilateral work in.
    Most of us us have a dominate and non dominate side so usually there is some kind of imbalance even if it's a small one.
    Also you can really focus well when doing one side like doing a concentration curl with the leg.
    The more advanced/stronger you get you would probably know where your weakness is.
    You’re not kidding, I’m right handed, left eye dominant and my left leg is the stronger of the two
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    Considering I don't have a barbell, they aren't too shabby.
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