Single or Bilateral Leg Training (Lunges or Squats)


#1

This is a link to a 45 minute presentation from Mike Boyle. It presents infomation about the pros & cons of both single leg movements (lunges, split squats, etc.) and bilateral movements (back squats, front squats, deadlifts, etc.).

He also discusses programming such workouts and coaching such workouts. I know there is alot of discussion on these exercises here on thsi site so I just thought I would share this information.

http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/single-leg-training-video/?ref=nf


#2

The debate between these two types of training is huge right now. Thanks for posting the link. You don’t have to be an S & C coach to care about this topic. If you are an athlete, or even just a parent of an athlete, it would do you good to start learning what types of training will benefit you most instead of just going through the motions.

Thanks again for the link!


#3

Both. Omitting bilateral training entirely is ridiculous. Boyle’s spiel about single-leg training being better than bilateral training is absurd and rooted in nonsense.


#4

kyleb,

You are right. Both forms of training serve a purpose. For the younger athlete who is beginning a training program, bilateral training will be a better fit. As he/she becomes stronger and gains more body awareness, introducing more 1-leg training can enhance the athlete’s training program. However, I would never remove bilateral training completely from a training program.

Bilateral training will serve more of a strength/power purpose, while 1-leg training will serve more of a “functional” purpose.


#5

[quote=“Full Windup”]kyleb,

You are right. Both forms of training serve a purpose. For the younger athlete who is beginning a training program, bilateral training will be a better fit. As he/she becomes stronger and gains more body awareness, introducing more 1-leg training can enhance the athlete’s training program. However, I would never remove bilateral training completely from a training program.

Bilateral training will serve more of a strength/power purpose, while 1-leg training will serve more of a “functional” purpose.[/quote]

obviously I agree with the idea that both are important to have, but some would say that you have the order backwards. Why start a beginning athlete with bilateral training when they havent built up knee/core/hip stability required to do heavy squats? Some prominent strength coaches have a basic phase of training for beginners that hits them with a lot of unilateral work and as they improve stability, flexibility and strength work them into the heavy bilateral lifts. In my case in high school it was a 4-6 week phase with my trainer. I can’t say that this is necessarily the best option. I’m sure trainers have success all the time starting beginners off with a mix of both. I think you gotta be careful though giving somebody heavy squats or deadlifts from the get-go if they dont have the mobility or strength to perform it safely. How many guys do you know who can’t squat without their knees caving in and heels coming off the ground? The answer is probably a lot if youve been around a lot of beginner weight trainees.

Even at the college level I’m seeing an overwhelming majority of guys who dont have the mobility to even hit parallel on a squat, whose backs round, knees cave in, etc. Maybe its not practical to have each athlete on his own individualized program at this level but it would certainly be optimal as opposed to guys doing half squats with almost twice the weight they should be using and then complaining about knee pain

Once an individual can safely perform bilateral lifts, then have both bilateral and unilateral incorporated into the athlete’s program, but for many, a solely unilateral phase may be necessary to progress the athlete to where they can utilize both kinds of movements safely and effectively.


#6

While I would start with bilateral training, I would never introduce heavy squats or heavy deadlifts first. There would be no use of weights unless the trainee could perform the movement as a bodyweight movement first. If the individual cannot master his own bodyweight, then there is no way he will be able to handle any extra weight.

Typically, the young athlete does not have the strength nor stability to perform 1-leg movements. If he exhibits compensations in a bilateral atmosphere, then there’s a good chance he will exhibit the same ones in a 1-leg environment.

As coaches, we sometimes think all we have to do is program certain exercises into the training program to fix compensations, but there needs to be a fair amount of actual coaching as well. The athlete needs to know that his knees are caving in or his heels are coming off the ground. We cannot expect him to just fix a problem he is unaware of. Teaching a movement in a bilateral atmosphere will make it easier for the athlete to recognize these movement issues. There’s no doubt that his strength will improve by performing the movement, but his stability will increase also as his body adapts to moving in the proper pattern. It is at this point that we can introduce 1-leg training to further increase stability. And believe it or not, this can happen in a matter of 2-3 weeks if you have a fairly competent/motivated athlete. And, just like when starting with the bilateral movements, new 1-leg movements will first be done as a bodyweight only exercise. In both cases, you can then use simple progressions to increase the load on the individual.


#7

Did you watch the video? He didn’t say anything about omitting bilateral training. He said something about it being a continuum from single leg training to bi-lateral training. He stressed the importance of single leg training for strengtening of stabilizer muscles and bilater training for development of strength. He highlighted some pros and cons - and really emphasized assessing the athletes to find out what their needs were.


#8

Did you watch the video? He didn’t say anything about omitting bilateral training. He said something about it being a continuum from single leg training to bi-lateral training. He stressed the importance of single leg training for strengtening of stabilizer muscles and bilater training for development of strength. He highlighted some pros and cons - and really emphasized assessing the athletes to find out what their needs were.[/quote]

http://www.functionalstrengthcoach3.com/squats.html

Watch that video. Boyle is just another guy in a long line of “industry professionals” who will say things to incite a riot and sell his products. A lot of his information is good, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that he uses these underhanded techniques to sell his stuff.

Lanky/Full,

I would be more inclined to agree with Full Windup here. Bilateral training is something you can get people doing rather quickly. I don’t understand the need for a lot of unilateral training that has very poor carryover to bilateral training (Bulgarian split-squats to full back squats, for example). If flexibility/mobility is the issue, fine. But it usually isn’t. It’s usually poor coaching and the inability to coach the back squat.

Bilateral strength is most important for novice trainees and unilateral strength is most important for advanced trainees. Obviously there is a continuum there and we could go on for thousands of posts about this subject (plenty of others have, that’s for sure), but it’s not really worth discussing ad nauseam.


#9

[quote=“kyleb”]

Lanky/Full,

If flexibility/mobility is the issue, fine. But it usually isn’t. It’s usually poor coaching and the inability to coach the back squat.

Bilateral strength is most important for novice trainees and unilateral strength is most important for advanced trainees. Obviously there is a continuum there and we could go on for thousands of posts about this subject (plenty of others have, that’s for sure), but it’s not really worth discussing ad nauseam.[/quote]

agreed. I think we’re all pretty much on the same page. It does come down a lot to coaching/proper progressions for most athletes.


#10

Kind of an arrogant attitude basing an opinion while not even watching the video - I hope you don’t treat your customers with the same attitude.

Because when I watched the video he pretty much said to do both bi-lateral and uni-lateral exercises. No dogma there! He also assessed some of his clients and explained why uni-lateral exercises would help their bilateral exercises and also help them address some musculature imbalances - that potentially causes performance issues.

Even though he runs a workout facility - so he can make a profit and support himself, bases his workouts on client assessments, gives back to his profession, and the uses the latest research to help direct his efforts - you consider his methods underhanded ? I hope that isn’t the standard that you use to identify charlatans? Because I know quit a few facilities that use this same marketing ploy - I bet you know of 1 or 2 yourself one may even be in the Northwest.


#11

[quote=“LankyLefty”][quote=“kyleb”]

Lanky/Full,

If flexibility/mobility is the issue, fine. But it usually isn’t. It’s usually poor coaching and the inability to coach the back squat.

Bilateral strength is most important for novice trainees and unilateral strength is most important for advanced trainees. Obviously there is a continuum there and we could go on for thousands of posts about this subject (plenty of others have, that’s for sure), but it’s not really worth discussing ad nauseam.[/quote]

agreed. I think we’re all pretty much on the same page. It does come down a lot to coaching/proper progressions for most athletes.[/quote]

Actually -

If you read much on Eric Cressey’s site (16 baseball signee’s to D1 schools this year alone) - mobility & flexibility are always a concern with any age group of lifters. He implies that such issues have a direct impact on the ability to properly execute squats, various powerlifts, the deadlift, and the bench press. He recommends - significant soft tissue (foam rolling) work and flexibility/mobility work on an almost daily basis. His workouts contain both various kinds of uni-lateral (stability) work and bi-lateral (strength) work to help all lifters progress - but the way I understand it he bases his workouts on client assessments - no one size fits all approach for him (although I suspect most clients do similar lifts).

While technique (coaching) plays a major part it is just one aspect of training. If a coach isn’t sharp enough to notice that an athlete has significant anterior tilt in his forward lunge - and can’t correct it with either a verbal or positional cue. The coach may not be sharp enough to coach proper squat technique because he doesn’t recognize and attempt to correct the imbalances that are causing the anterior tilt. These issues can be present in young athletes as well as older athletes (considering most kids sit around doing things (video games, computers, etc)- I would bet they have some hip mobility/flexibilty/strength issues). Stability issues aren’t just present in the lunge - they are also present in the squat - but what is the difference - in the squat the athlete is loaded up with a significant amount of weight (usually greater than the body weight) while in the lunge it is some body weight plus a little more. If an athlete can’t stabilize himself so he doesn’t tilt in a lunge with only a little weight how is he going to stabilize himself in a squat and maintain good form with much more weight? How is squat technique going to build this mobility, flexibility, and strength in the hips?

I have come to believe that over emphasis on technique/strength progression in the big 3 exercises (squat, deadlift, bench press) - while not paying equal attention to stability, flexibility, and mobility causes performance degradation and injury - maybe not now but in the future as muscles become more imbalanced due to poorly designed training plans. I have trouble understanding why an elite powerlifter would start doing uni-lateral work but we wouldn’t consider such work to be important for other lifting populations? Again just my opinion.

In short Kyleb - I think you are wrong in you overemphasis on bi-lateral work for novice lifters.


#12

kidmullen- I agree with what you say. There are many areas of physicality that need to be addressed besides teaching the basic fundamentals of a major lift. Just teaching a basic deadlifting form isn’t enough if the athlete is showing hip dominance to one side or lack of glute activation. Every athlete needs to be assessed before moving on to a basic strength and conditioning program. They need to understand body awareness and using the muscles together as one piece before moving on to resistance training.

Using unilateral training is a great way for any athlete to understand how the body works together and how to fight imbalances throughout the body. This awareness will carry over to bilateral training and I guarantee you the athlete will get stronger than ever.

Every time I’m training I’m always focused on a certain weakness and fighting against it to keep the movement neutral.

Smooth and tight. That’s the moto I train by.


#13

I’m not going to get in an argument about Boyle - especially with someone who is just finding out information on the Internet about exercise science. Let his misleading videos and marketing styles speak for themselves. That he is a successful businessman isn’t what I care about. I care about improving the performance of my athletes. Using underhanded methods to sell stuff isn’t balanced out by “giving back” to the community. That’s not how I operate from a moral standpoint.

[quote=“kidmullen”]

In short Kyleb - I think you are wrong in you overemphasis on bi-lateral work for novice lifters.[/quote]

Using Eric as a counter to this argument is very poor. Cressey’s strength message is very much: “If you are healthy, you need to get strong.” Which is standard a exercise science tenet.

Additionally:

Is this is a joke? The squat heavily relies on hip extension.

You seem to think that doing light work and unilateral stuff transfers well to bilateral movements. It doesn’t. If it did, powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters would do a lot more of it (they do nearly none).

It’s good that you are researching this information. It’s also clear that you have just started doing this research. Broaden your horizons and find out what this industry is all about - not everything you read is full of truth. Just go read what drivel is on T-Nation every day.


#14

Not to ruin this thread, but how does being balanced really help you in baseball?


#15

[quote=“kyleb”]I’m not going to get in an argument about Boyle - especially with someone who is just finding out information on the Internet about exercise science. Let his misleading videos and marketing styles speak for themselves. That he is a successful businessman isn’t what I care about. I care about improving the performance of my athletes. Using underhanded methods to sell stuff isn’t balanced out by “giving back” to the community. That’s not how I operate from a moral standpoint.

You seem to think that doing light work and unilateral stuff transfers well to bilateral movements. It doesn’t. If it did, powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters would do a lot more of it (they do nearly none).

It’s good that you are researching this information. It’s also clear that you have just started doing this research. Broaden your horizons and find out what this industry is all about - not everything you read is full of truth. Just go read what drivel is on T-Nation every day.[/quote]

First let me put this into context - ARE WE TRAINING OLYMPIC & POWERLIFTERS or training pitchers? UMMMMMMM! but I digress from my real point.

Second - Cressey and Boyle agree on many things so I don’t think mentioning the two in the same sentence is too far off base.

But Finally -

the actual issue is your dogmatic approach to lifting & your one size fits all approach to everything associated with strength training. You degrade others as heretics and dismiss their expertise (MS, PhD, etc. in a relevant degree) while never mentioning your strength & conditioning education (not to discount your credentials but do you have a MS or PhD in something related to exercise science or physical therapy?) & your internet gained knowledge. Let me remind you about your confusion with biomechanics and materials science that was just so recently made clear. You are not the expert you think you are and that you so confidently portray on this forum - so humbleness would probably be in order.

You pass judgment on folks without evening listening to what they say before judging their argument. The video didn’t say anything about unilateral training being better than bi-lateral training - it only presented information - of course you didn’t watch it and won’t watch it so you’ll never know. I don’t recall any marketing effort - but since you didn’t watch it you won’t know will you - or I may be too stupid to realize what a marketing effort is.

He even talked about some power lifters that only did bi-lateral training - didn’t say anything negative about them. He also talked about some S&C coaches that had trained olympic caliber athletes (have you trained olympic caliber athletes?) and were proponents of using unilateral training in their planning efforts. Of course you wouldn’t have done it that way - but theire is only your way with you - others may want to have more information to help them make a choice or understand what they are doing.

You assume as usual that I only do uni-lateral work - WRONG - I am wasting time because I am injured from performing a squat in a baseball conditioning class. According to the coach I had good form until the point - I twisted just a little and two weeks later I am still watching other folks workout. So do you think I have an interest in this subject.

I mean good gosh how much pride does it take to insist that you know what someone is going to say before they say it.


#16

My understanding is that being unbalanced -

  1. Can cause injury and decrease mobility.
  2. Limit strength gains - e.g. - make you back stronger to increase your bench press; do deadlifts to help you improve your squat?

#17

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. My website details all of this. We use a varied program per person depending on an initial screening, just like EC would do. We test their hip/shoulder ROM. Not everyone is on a cookie cutter program.

False. I have read and heard plenty of stuff by Boyle. Did you even see the video where he says the back squat is dead?

The stuff about training Olympic athletes is an appeal to authority and a terrible logical fallacy, so I won’t waste my time with that.

I never said this, and you won’t find me saying it in this thread. You’re making things up as usual.

What I am saying is that uni-lateral work transfers poorly (if at all) to bilateral strength work.

Healthy novices must get strong. This is a commonly accepted and very obvious tenet of exercise science. Only untrained rank novices get strong by doing unilateral work.

This is honestly very simple elementary stuff that you would know if you had been studying a bit more before spouting off at the mouth. I’ll not be responding any more to this thread, as it’s clear you are underinformed (or misinformed if you’re reading Boyle’s garbage about the death of bilateral work) or deliberately being inflammatory.