Unilateral training is something that not many people put into their routines on a regular basis (Unilateral training simply means training one side of the body at a time). Whether they’ve been scared away by lunges or just don’t know what options they have available, unilateral lower body training is just not something you see very often in a fitness center.
However, this is also one of the most important types of movement we should train on a regular basis. Think, for a second, about your grandparents and how they move. Odds are, if I asked you to visualize an elderly person walking in front of you, you would envision someone with a cane or walker, or someone shuffling along in their slippers. The main reason that this shuffling movement happens is that, if we don’t train ourselves to stabilize on one leg as we age, we lose the ability and comfort to open up our stride and walk with purpose. Our gait slowly closes in because of fear of falling.
So incorporating lower body unilateral training into your routine is imperative for longevity and overall health. Where do you start, then, if you have trouble doing lunges or pistol squats? The offset split squat is the first progression we use to break our members into lower body unilateral training.
The offset split squat offers 3 important aspects that allow you to develop unilateral training as well as other attributes that will help you perform (yes, living a “normal” life is performing) at a higher level:
The offset position means that we are only holding weight on one side of the body. Typically you should hold the weight on the opposite side of the leg you’re training. So if you’re pushing with the left leg, hold the weight in the right hand.
The offset position is important because it trains your body to stabilize from side to side. With barbell training, you only have to stabilize from front to back (which is important as well, but, like we talked about, this is how must of us train regularly). Learning to stabilize from side to side allows you to become more balanced as you move through the world, which will counteract your body’s natural instinct to shuffle over time.
Although we want to perform this exercise with weight in order to get the most bang for our buck, we can also use your body weight if you have no other option. This is a great starting point for most because, as you’ll notice when you try split squats, you are weaker on one side verses the other. Using your body weight at first allows you to bring up the weak side while still training the strong side.
By no locomotion I mean you don’t have to step in any direction. Everyone has done walking lunges as some point in their life. And, if that includes you, you distinctly remember the pain and agony you felt, both during and after that day.
Taking away the locomotion allows your muscles to develop pure strength first, without having to worry about driving through the range of motion you need to perform a walking lunge.
Implement offset split squats into your routine so that you stay away from the shuffle. You’ll develop strength at a different level and notice other attributes increase as well.