Everyone from exercise newbies to elite athletes can become stronger, leaner and healthier by using the best piece of exercise equipment invented — the human body! If you don’t have access to a gym because of financial limitations or your personal equipment collection is less than stellar, this total-body workout is for you.
Each of these exercises is performed unilaterally, which means that emphasis is placed on one side of the body at a time. This method of training is beneficial for the following reasons:
A Tighter Core (Hello Sexy Abs!)
It’s no secret that standing on one leg helps improve balance, but exercises become even more effective when there’s motion involved. Having to maintain stability in this way improves balance and increases muscle contractions due to the repositioning of your center of gravity. This effect is mainly felt in the deeper stabilizing muscles of your lower body as well as in your core muscles, like your abdominals and lower back — and after all, who doesn’t love the idea of toned abs minus endless crunches?
Muscle strength imbalances are a common cause of pain and injury because they can throw your joints and posture out of alignment. Unilateral training exercises can eliminate existing imbalances by strengthening your weaker side. For best results, always work both sides of your body with equal intention.
Perform two to three sets of each exercise with 60 seconds of rest between sets. Or, try performing these moves as a circuit: Do one set of each exercise without breaks, resting 60 seconds after the last move and repeating two to three times.
Bodyweight Split Squat
Target Muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus
Set Up: Stand a few feet in front of a chair or low table with your feet shoulder-width apart. Rest the toes of one foot on its surface.
Action: Drop your rear knee toward the floor by bending your front leg. Pause before pushing through your front heel to return to the starting position. Complete 12 to 20 reps, then switch legs and repeat.
Tip: Leaning forward is a no-no; keep your torso tall and upright.
Target Muscles: pectoralis major, triceps brachii, deltoids, transverse abdominis
Set Up: Begin in a push-up position with your back straight and hands directly under your shoulders.
Action: Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor. As you raise yourself back up, roll into a side plank and raise your superior arm toward the ceiling. Hold this position for two seconds. Return both hands to the floor before rolling onto your other side in the same manner. Repeat for 12 to 20 reps.
Tip: Do not allow your hips to sag toward the floor.
One-Legged Overhead Good Morning
Target Muscles: hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, trapezius, deltoids
Set Up: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees unlocked, extending your arms straight overhead.
Action: Bend at your hips while lifting one leg behind you. Your lifted leg, torso and arms should form a straight line. Hold, then return to the start. Complete 12 to 20 reps on each side.
Tip: Your shoulders should stay in line with your torso; as you lean forward, don’t let your arms drop.