What do you get when you mash up a musclehead and a computer geek? Well… us, actually. And as a result, we are always looking for smarter ways to train, faster ways to build muscle, and better ways to make being an athlete fit into a working-stiff’s schedule. So, when the debate arose about which method of training was more effective, unilateral movements or bilateral movements, we read the studies and opinions, we shuffled our workouts around for a few weeks, and we put together a program that is one of the current favorites around here. It can be a quick workout when you’re crunched for time, but it allows you spend all the time-under-tension you need to stimulate serious muscle gains. Try it for yourself and let us know what you think.
For starters, bilateral movements are those where both sides of the body work to move the load symmetrically through the range of motion. Think barbell curls: the right and left arms move the weight from starting position to finishing point, together simultaneously — the resistance distributed evenly between each arm. By contrast, unilateral movements, such as a one-arm dumbbell curl, are those where a muscle group on one side of the body moves the load independently from the opposite side — and not at simultaneously with the opposite side.
In fairness, the debate is not so much over which type of movement is superior (because they are both effective components of any well-rounded training regimen), for us the discussion was more about how to best use the two methods given their unique advantages — and given the specific goals we were trying to accomplish.
Factor #1: Pretty much everyone at our office likes to train, likes talking about training, and a bunch of us even train together. During the week however, we also work some fairly long hours, and our families and personal commitments take a top spot in our daily schedule too, so we don’t always have as much time to work out as we like. Sound familiar? Weekends provide more time for working out, but we’re not going to build the muscle strength and size we want by only hitting the gym two days a week.
Factor #2: No training program works forever, and we like to change things around to keep the gains up, and the bored down — and while most of us will try any reasonable workout plan, we do expect to get a serious return on our investment. Something new, that works, is a good score around here.
Factor #3: Studies such as the one by Dr Keijo Hakkinen et al reported in the journal Acta Physiologica — along with our own personal experience — suggest that bilateral training builds more overall strength in a muscle group (e.g. upper arm) than unilateral movements. That study also indicated that unilateral exercises were more effective at increasing strength in a specific muscle (e.g. bicep) than bilateral movements. And when it come to forging that “mind-muscle-connection” that’s often discussed among top physique athletes, most agree that unilateral exercises have a distinct edge.
Factor #4: Some muscle groups, like chest for example, present a bit of a challenge when it comes to finding unilateral exercises that are safe and effective. For example one-arm bench presses (both with a dumbbell and on a Smith machine), are awkward at best. One-legged squats on the other hand, are a legit hardcore exercise …when done with good form.
So taking these and other factors into consideration, we assembled the following program that can be completed in 35 minutes on weekdays, and 50 minutes on weekends. Sure it’s pretty challenging, but it’s a real-deal muscle builder.
|Day 1 (We do this on Tuesdays because the gym is less crowded than Mondays)|
|Dumbbell Bench Press||4||8 – 12||Chest|
|Incline Bench Press||3||10 – 12||Chest|
|Overhead Barbell Press (Standing)||4||8 – 10||Shoulders|
|Dumbbell Lateral Raise||3||10 – 12||Shoulders|
|Hanging Leg Raise||2||15 – 20||Abs|
|Day 2 (We do Wednesdays)|
|Squat||5||12 – 15||Legs|
|Leg Press||5||8 – 10||Legs|
|Wide-grip Bentover Row||5||8 – 10||Back|
|Two-arm Dumbbell Curl||3||8 – 10||Biceps|
|Barbell Drag Curl||3||8 – 10||Biceps|
|Day 3 (Saturday)|
|One-arm Cable Chest Flye(Tip: Using the lowest position for the pulley makes this movement easier to perform with one arm)||3||10 – 12||Chest|
|One-arm Machine Press(E.g. Hammer Strength Chest Press. Tip: Load weight onto both sides of the machine and use your stationary arm to stabilize yourself by holding the grip/handle)||3||10 – 12||Chest|
|Flat Dumbbell Bench Press with Neutral Grip(palms facing each other)||3||8 – 10||Chest|
|One-arm Overhead Press with Dumbbell or Kettlebell||3||8 – 10||Shoulders|
|One-arm Cable Lateral Raise||3||10 – 12||Shoulders|
|One-arm Upright Row||3||8 – 10||Shoulders|
|One-arm Overhead Tricep Extension||3||8 – 10||Triceps|
|Reverse One-arm Cable Tricep Extension||3||10 – 12||Triceps|
|Decline Crunch||3||To Failure||Abs|
|Hanging Knee Raise||2||To Failure||Abs|
|Day 4 (Sunday)|
|Front Squats||4||10 – 12||Legs|
|Dumbbell Reverse Lunge(Don’t alternate — perform all reps on one side before switching to perform reps on the other side)||4||8 – 10||Legs|
|Seated Single-leg Extension||3||8 – 10||Legs|
|Lying Single-leg Curl||3||8 – 10||Legs|
|One-arm Bentover Dumbbell Rows||4||8 – 10||Back|
|One-arm Seated Cable Rows||3||8 – 10||Back|
|Wide-grip Pulldown||3||10 – 12||Back|
|Seated One-arm Dumbbell Curl||3||8 – 10||Biceps|
|One-arm Hammer Curl||3||8 – 10||Biceps|
|One-arm Cable Curl||3||8 – 10||Biceps|