T. P. Wyland & G. F. “Cisco” Reyes

Concordia University, Portland, OR

The increased implementation of unilateral exercises into performance training programs has led exercise science professionals to pursue the efficacy of unilateral over bilateral exercises. PURPOSE: to compare changes in musculoskeletal strength and power due to unilateral (UL) and bilateral training (BL) programs for the upper and lower body. METHODS: Eleven male and female subjects (age: 22.6 ± 4.4, weight: 78.3 ± 19.9 kg, height: 175.2 ± 7.62cm) with at least six months of consistent resistance training experience were randomly assigned to either the UL training group (n = 6) or the BL training group (n = 5). All subjects were pre-tested bilaterally for one-repetition maximum (1RM) on the bench press and deadlift, as well as maximal repetitions for pull-ups and vertical jump. Each group performed 8 weeks of a periodized resistance training program with equivocal volume between groups. Intensity of exercises was adjusted per subject, per movement, per training session to insure an increase in the amount of weight lifted. Differences between training groups existed as the BL performed all exercises bilaterally, while the UL group performed single-limb variations of the same types of exercises. Exercises included dumbbell bench press, barbell deadlift, lat pulldowns, plyometric box jumps, dumbbell squats, inverted rows, and dumbbell military press. RESULTS: No significant differences in performance were identified between training groups. However, statistically significant improvements were reported within groups, as vertical jump (53.4 ± 17.7 cm pre-test to 58 ± 16.1 cm post-test, p = 0.012) and deadlift (113.7 ± 41.6 kg pre-test to 131.4 ± 40.7 kg post-test, p < 0.0001) improved in the UL group. Within the BL training group, only the deadlift saw significant improvements (120.4 ± 53.7 kg pre-test to 132.3 ± 55.5 kg pre-test, p = 0.035). CONCLUSIONS: The data from this study suggest that training unilateral in specific exercises can increase performance to the same degree as bilateral training. These results illustrate the efficacy of unilateral training to develop muscular strength and power.

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