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10 Unilateral Exercises for Increased Balance, Coordination and Activation

For all intents and purposes, the bread and butter of the strength athlete will always be unilateral compound movements with heavy free weights. But as some newer and even more experienced athletes will find, over time we can unconsciously develop imbalances that affect overall progress as one dominant side continues to work double-time to compensate for the lagging weaker side.

So here are 10 unilateral exercises courtesy of T-Nation that can be incorporated into your routine to shore up these weak links as well as improve overall activation, balance and coordination:

 

1. Dumbbell Deficit Bulgarian Split Squat: The deficit from standing with one leg on a raised platform equals greater squat depth and a larger range of motion.

2. Zercher Reverse Lunge: Not only places greater emphasis on a single glute, but derives the upper back focus the zercher position is known for.

 

3. Front Loaded Forward Lunge: An accessory movement to the basic squat while also activating the upper back due to the position of the weight.

 

4. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Brace: Activates hamstrings on a single leg while taking stress off the back and preventing balance from limiting the amount of weight to be used.

 

5. Bottoms-Up Single-Leg Foot and Shoulder-Elevated Hip Thrust: Similar to the barbell glute raise from the floor, this exercise gives a far greater range of motion due to both elevated shoulders and plant foot.

 

6. Single-Leg Prisoner Back Extension: Activates the hamstrings and glute of the stance leg without having to use additional weights.

7. Pistol Squat with Countermovement: An easier version of the single-leg squat thanks to the counterweight while still providing the coordination challenge and activation of quads on the stance leg.

 

8. Pendulum Quadruped Hip Extension: An accessory Movement to both the squat and deadlift that also increase hip extension range and core stability.

9. Dumbell Step Up: A weight version of the traditional step up with emphasis on the quads and glutes of the stance leg.

 

10. Dumbbell Skater Squat with Countermovement: Another free standing single-leg squat that is slightly easier to perform and more suitable for those with sensitive or recovering knees.


  • Nathan Kan
  • ActivationBalanceCoordinationLiftingPosterior ChainUnilateral

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