How adding these 4 Unilateral Exercises will fire up your core and change your workout

December 9, 2020

Hey there! Day 1257463896 in isolation and our home workout routines are starting to feel a little same same. But how to mix things up a little? Well adding unilateral exercises to your workout will fire up your core and raise your heart rate, so they are a good start. Working unilaterally (single sided i.e. […]

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Hey there!

Day 1257463896 in isolation and our home workout routines are starting to feel a little same same. But how to mix things up a little? Well adding unilateral exercises to your workout will fire up your core and raise your heart rate, so they are a good start. Working unilaterally (single sided i.e. one arm or one leg) has many benefits:

  • They challenge your core even more, as you need that little extra balance when performing unilateral exercises, and balance requires core engagement
  • They highlight imbalances and weak sides enabling you to focus on strengthen them, which may in turn alleviate some niggling injuries
  • They require more concentration on the actual move and in turn the muscles you’re using. Concentrating on your workout helps those muscles fire
  • They are great for preventing and rehabing injuries
  • They make you sweat! The added concentration, core engagement, focus and demand on the muscle is greater than the same exercise performed with bilaterally i.e. a normal bridge versus a single leg bridge

How to begin adding unilateral exercises to your workout

You probably do some unilateral exercises without even thinking about it. For example, these popular exercises are often in home workouts:

  • Side Lunge
  • Single leg lunge forward or backward
  • Single arm row
  • Single arm shoulder press

These are great exercises to do regularly, but if you want something a little bit different try these four exercises. You can add them into your normal workout, or you can do these four back-to-back for 3 sets as a stand alone quick 10 minute workout. The below four exercises include:

  • A Lunge and Drive for quads, hamstrings, glutes and calfs (legs)
  • A Tricep Dip with leg lift for triceps, abs and shoulders (arms)
  • A Twisting plank for the abs and core + shoulders
  • A Single Leg bridge for the glutes

The beauty of these exercises as you can see above is they require a lot of muscles to be working together. These exercises don’t isolate to a single muscle, but rather require several muscles to work together and for the core to be ON FIRE and activated!

The ‘How To’ Explanation!


Lunges are great for working the legs and bottom. You’ll use the Quads, Hamstrings and Glutes to perform each exercise and as we’re adding a hop it will increase your heart rate as well as challenge your balance – this means you’re also going to be working that core! So tense the abs and get ready to start. From standing, simple step back about a metre and bend both knees to 90 degrees, making sure the front knee doesn’t creep over the toes. Keep the chest lifted and tighten the stomach muscles. Keep the back heel lifted as you step back and lower that back knee before driving that knee through and up toe hte ceiling and hopping on your other leg. Try to balance and swing straight back through and into the lunge. Try to explode into the jump as much as you can and try not to touch your foot down between repetetions. Repeat with the other leg until you’ve completed 10 repetitions each side


Tricep dips are great for training the backs of our arms…yes we’re talking bingo wings! This version is going to require you to work hard as you’re balancing on one leg and two arms. That’s a lot of weight for those triceps to be holding up. Then to add to it we’re going to be moving the leg and making that core work overtime.

You want to position your hands behind you at a comfortable distance with fingers facing your bottom. Feet on the floor and knees bent. Roll the shoulders back and get ready to begin, then lift your hips into the air so there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Engage the abs and lengthen one leg. Keep the weight evenly distributed rather than pushing to one side. As you bend your elbows and drop your bottom towards the floor kick that leg to the ceiling. Push up on the arms and lower the leg. Repeat 10-15 reps on each leg.


What’s an exercise programme without a plank right? But just what is its purpose? Well, the ‘core’ as we call it encompasses the six pack (abs), something called the transverse abdominals, which is like a corset that wraps around your waist and vital muscles around the spine. The core is essential at keeping us upright and helping us move, so training it is essential to good movement, reduced back pain and a more mobile life. However, when the plank is amped up, so is the demand on these muscles. Start on your feet and hands with a straight line from head to heel. Engage your abs as you lift one heel up to the ceiling so it’s level with your hips. As you drive the knee towards the opposite elbow rotate through your middle. Keep this foot off the floor and then return it plank to the plank position. Repeat 10 reps each side.


OK, so the bridge is a firm favourite for physiotherapists if you’ve ever had a rehab programme and for good reason. They really isolate the Glutes and activate the firing of these muscles without the use of the quads. So for quad (thigh) dominant people this is a great exercise to have in every programme before doing your squats. The single leg bridge is even better because it highlights those imbalances and gives you time to really get those bum muscles firing. You perform the same way as a normal bridge, but drive through one single leg (heel) instead.

Lying on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Hands by your side. Lift one leg into the air comfortably out of the way. Push into the base leg heel and drive your hips to the ceiling. Make sure you don’t overarch your lower back and pinch the spine. Keep the abs engaged and drop the hips back to the floor before repeating. Repeat for 10-15 reps each leg.

Tighten your ponytail it’s time to start your home workout routine

So that’s it ladies. Try adding some unilateral work to your workouts. Start with the four above, but then think about how you can incorporate other unilateral or single leg/arm exercises into your home workout plan.

KT, x

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