Fitness Post – Why I Choose Single Limb Exercises

Clients on occasion have asked why most of the exercises I put into their programs are single-limb exercises rather than the ‘traditional’ exercises – such as the Squat or Bench Press? While I do place these exercises into some programs, they are more dominant for only those people who I think need them for a specific reason. Of course there is merit in these types of exercises, but they don’t have a dominant place in the programs most people need in their resistance programs. Another reason is if you know the history in exercise programs you would see most of these historical exercises were designed for war and contained mostly single limb movements.

So if I very briefly outline the reasons specifically –

  • Most of our natural modes of movement are dominant in single limb modalities, so this should be reflected in the exercises you choose for your resistance programs. For Sportspeople I do add the Olympic movements as these have a relationship with their sports but I also get them to do these exercises with a single side of their body being dominant (using exercises such as One Arm Snatch or One Arm Clean and Press for instance). 
  • Allied to the point above, we usually have a dominant side of the body so One Limb exercises help to balance this out. I get my clients to exercise with their non-dominant side first rather than giving them more repetitions to perform on their weaker side. Another point I would like to make here is have you ever tried to write with your non-dominant side? It will show you that there is an imbalance of ‘motor ability’ between the two sides of your body, there is not just an imbalance in strength. This can lead to repetitive strain injuries to the dominant side because it takes more of the loading.
  • Allied to these last two points, single limb exercises involve more balance and coordination to perform. This is important not just for Sportspeople but also for everyone else. And you may as well get a greater value for the time you spend in the gym?
  • As I stated at the introduction, I do believe that there is a place in programs for the double limb exercises as some of our natural movements use both limbs in unison, particularly when it comes to heavier lifting, so I do have these exercises in my programs. Another prime reason is that within a rehabilitation program it is best to have the injured limb supported by the non-injured limb. In the exercise example below I have put a photo depicting a double-limb movement using the lower body followed by a single limb movement using the upper body – so there is room for the double limb movements. But I see a lot of people using double limb movements in gyms exclusively. Always ask your self as to why you are doing your exercise program as this will give you greater chance for long term compliance.

There should be an overall balance to your program and even for those Sportspeople who compete in the Strength Sports, it is important to work on the single limb exercises for the reasons stated above…

Every morning I wake up with the mantra that I am no one and I know nothing…

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