Lower Body Unilateral Strength and Re-Balancing

Some weeks ago, I did a post on lower body unilateral strength work in the weight room. As we enter the winter off-season (for most of us), it’s time to re-examine some good moves to build strength and balance.

There’s two important reasons to do lower body unilateral strength work, especially as an endurance athlete.

  1. Running, skiing, and riding requires a LOT of repetitive movement. So there is a lot of opportunity to build up imbalances in muscle strength. For example, the left vastus medialis muscle, a key stabilizer in the quads, might get stronger than the right side. Unilateral work strengthens both equally and re-balances the muscle strength.
  2. Unilateral work requires more use of stabilizer muscles, and therefore strengthens the muscles around the hip, knee, and ankle joints.

Four Different Lower Body Unilateral Strength Moves

Trainer and yoga instructor Charlee Atkins shows off four different bodyweight lower body unilateral strength moves.

Image from Men’s Health

These are great for building muscle endurance and re-balance, particularly in the off-season. To build more muscle strength, you can add dumbbells or kettlebells to your routine.

Try these with a dumbbell or kettlebell in just one hand. You’ll have to use your core to stabilize your movement so you don’t tip over!

Unilateral Work to Create More Balance

I’ve been using these moves a lot at the WAC for not only athletes but for older men and women who have lost a step with their balance.

We do modified versions of these moves. For example, with the single-leg straight-leg deadlift, we use a straight bar in front to create some balance, and then use the back foot tiptoe on the ground somewhat behind the front foot.

We also utilize the TRX strap, or as my daughter calls it, the T-Rex strap. The TRX creates some stabilization doing all four of these moves, for those who are ready to create more stabilization work.

TRX Hip Hinge

We also use the TRX to do a modified single-leg deadlift, with arms outstretched. If the TRX is too unstable, we use the Smith machine bar or a bar attached to the wall to do these.

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