Many of our go-to exercises like bench press can be great for strengthening, however if it’s the only way we train, we might be suffering in the long run. Unilateral exercises can help correct muscle imbalances in training. When doing bilateral movements, the dominant limb may compensate for the weaker limb, so unilateral will ensure that each side is working equally. Doing unilateral training will also help with overall symmetry, as well as engaging your core more.
Some examples of how to incorporate more unilateral moves into your regimen look like this:
• Dumbbell split squat
• Single-leg Romanian deadlift (kettlebells, dumbbells, and a brace)
• Single-leg hip thrust (foot and shoulder elevated)
• Single-leg curl or press
• Weighted step-ups
• Lunges (forward, reverse, or side)
• Single-arm lat pulldown
• Single-arm side straight arm pulldown
• Single-leg prisoner back extension
• Single-arm dumbbell rows
• Single-arm shoulder press, chest press, or lateral raises
• Single-arm bicep curls or triceps extensions
Focusing on the eccentric part (the lowering, or negative part) of a rep can help elongate the muscle, which will cause more microtears, which means more gains.
Eccentric training means focusing on the lowering and negative part of the rep. To do this, focus on lowering the resistance more slowly than normal. Resist gravity for about 5 seconds before you bring the weight up. Doing this will elongate the muscle, causing micro tears, which means more growth. You will probably experience more muscle soreness, however. Eccentric training is an intense technique, so it should be used sparingly. Just throw in some eccentric training every few weeks, and when you do, try to use a heavier weight than normal.
Want to build strength fast? Explosive movements are the way to go. Athletes who excel in strength are recommended to use this technique by their trainers worldwide. For best results, get into a slow controlled negative to resist gravity, then follow it up with an explosive positive. Doing this is a guaranteed way to increase your strength. Make sure to use moderate to heavy weights, because doing an explosive motion with lighter weights can cause a hyperextended joint.
Finishing with a 30-rep pump set can help you gain more muscle than you would from strength training alone. Aim to do about 80% of your time doing heavy exercises, and 20% doing pump training. Not only will you get an awesome pump, but you’ll also gain an increase in muscle strength and size.
Find a Stronger Partner
When you train with someone who is stronger than you, you will subconsciously be more competitive than with someone who is less strong than you or at your level. If your training partner is stronger than you, you will have better success with doing forced reps to help you when you’ve reached true muscle failure. Not to mention the mental benefits of seeing someone workout who you can aspire to be as strong as. Naturally, you’ll perform better than with someone who is your equal.
Train by Feel
Beginners will most likely struggle with their progress if they aren’t following a program. However, there comes a time when you’re more advanced than some of the programs available to you. Obviously, your groundwork is laid down from following a plan originally, but as you advance you have learned a lot about technique, how different moves affect your body and physique, and what your body excels at and what needs more work.
Everyone should start with knowing all of the relevant techniques, but eventually be able to analyze how each one affects you individually. Most competitors know just as much about technique as you, but the difference is the degree which you have been able to use your feelings and instinct. Listening to your body and using the feel way of training can often be a gateway as an excuse to be lazy, so don’t let that happen to you. Know what you’re doing, have a solid foundation, then adapt.
Cardio After Weights
Cardio can deplete your glycogen energy stores, which can damper your lifts if you do them after cardio. Instead, after weight training, do some cardio and the fat burning effects will be better as your muscle glycogen stores will already be much more depleted, causing your body to tap into fat stores instead.