Bulletproof Your Body With This Unilateral Training Workout

Unilateral exercises are a good way to change-up from the classic push-ups, deadlifts and military presses.


Emily Abbate, Photography by Giacomo Fortunato |

Jay T. Maryniak has got used to the stares. They come whenever he does what looks like a plea for Instagram attention, grabbing a loaded barbell, lying on the floor, then standing and hoisting the barbell overhead with one arm. “It doesn’t bug me,” he says.

That’s because Maryniak, a certified trainer and strength and conditioning coach, knows what he’s doing. He’s venturing into the world of unilateral training. Unilateral exercises engage primarily one side of your body to move resistance. That’s a change-up from classics such as push-ups, deadlifts, and military presses.

Making Unilateral Moves

Not sure where to start? Steal a few of these exercises from Maryniak and inject them into your workouts. Or do them all in order as a full-body workout, resting 60 seconds between sets and 90 seconds between exercises.

1. Single-Arm Front Rack Carry

Stand holding a kettlebell in your right hand at your right shoulder. Keeping your chest tall and your torso as straight as possible, walk. Repeat with the kettlebell in your left hand at your left shoulder.

Your Goal: 20 steps forward and 20 steps back (4 sets).

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2. Deficit Bulgarian Split Squat

Start with your legs shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides. Place your left foot on a bench or step behind you, and your right foot on a weight plate or small step. Bend your right knee, lowering your torso until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Pause, then return to the start.

Your Goal: 4 sets of 8 per side.

3. Single-Arm Floor Press

Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, a dumbbell in your right hand, held directly over your shoulder. This is the start. Bend at the elbow and shoulder, lowering your upper arm to the floor, then straighten your arm.

Your Goal: 4 sets of 12 per side.

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4. Kneeling Bottoms-Up Press

Start kneeling on your right knee, left foot firmly on the floor. Tightly hold a kettlebell by its handle in your right hand, bell pointed overhead. Engage your core and straighten your right arm, pressing the weight overhead. Lower back to the start.

Your Goal: 4 sets of 8 per side.

Related: The 15-Minute Smart Dumbbell Workout Plan

5. Quadruped Row

Place your hands and knees on a bench, core tight. Straighten your right leg behind you, squeezing your glutes. Hold a light dumbbell (pro tip: go lighter than you think) in your left hand, arm hanging naturally. Row the dumbbell towards your rib cage; keep your core tight so you don’t tip to either side. Return to the start.

Your Goal: 4 sets of 10 per side.

Keep It Light

Unilateral training has plenty of benefits, but it’s placing new demands on your body. So leave your ego at the door.

“Since balance and stability are major components here, it’s important to start light and maintain excellent form throughout each rep,” Maryniak says.

Make sure you follow Jay on Instagram for more of his workouts:@jtm_fit

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