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One Sided Strength for Better Stability Training

This week I’ve been dedicating a lot of discussion to both injury resiliency and stability training. Why? For one, if you hurt, you won’t achieve your fitness goals, I don’t care how tough you THINK you are! If you want to be powerful and strong you have to possess that base of stability otherwise you can’t demonstrate your true strength or power. Lastly, to help people see that what we think is building injury resiliency and stability isn’t actually doing what many think. That is why I wanted to expand on one strategy in particular I discussed in my blog post HERE. 

That is using unilateral training to help build both injury resiliency, stability, and help us achieve more goals. It is funny  because it isn’t hard for most people to understand when we go more one arm or one leg that we have more muscles kick in to help balance our body as we try to lift a weight. Yet, as obvious and easy to agree upon that topic is, I’m amazed at how much still people devalue and don’t know how to progress these strategies because they are so important. 

This isn’t what we are meaning in stability training and going one sided in your workouts.

Why when something is obvious do people fight it? I think it easily goes back to people think lighter weights don’t equate to better results. They often lead to such training as “de-loading” or “recovery” training. Which actually makes no sense because in reality, performing more one sided movements require HIGHER nervous system activity and use MORE muscles because of the multi-tasks that are going on to the body. Which means they are often MORE intense than a lot of the more stable, but heavier loaded exercises. 

This “sophisticated” way of thinking is what keeps our industry from moving forward. 

Again, why don’t people realize this? Sadly it is because we are so load focused we often miss the many other important attributes to training and strength. The truth is the reason that so many people don’t get the results they want is because they neglect looking at training more holistically which really bums me out because it doesn’t take much to make a training program so much more effective and efficient. 

Okay, with that said, am I just going to tell you to do more unilateral exercises. I wish I could, but as it is with the fitness industry people have made these concepts harder than they have to be and also less effective in the process. What am I talking about? 

The biggest issue I see with unilateral training is that people have no plan on when, how, and who to introduce it to and just randomly throw it in. Because unilateral training challenges our stability so much, it has to be introduced with the same care we would use with load, reps, or all the other training variables. That means progression!

How do we use this progression? Let’s go through a few examples. 


I see the “new” thing is to use unevenly loaded barbells. At first glance that might seem like a good idea as it is more unilateral and we do have to resist some additional forces. The issues I see are….

stability training

Yes, this is one sided, but this also doesn’t look like it is teaching better movement if you look at the alignment of the body. We have to ask ourselves if this is the BEST way to train unilaterally. 

-How much should you be unevenly loaded?

-Is this the best way to introduce uneven loads?

-Is the barbell the best tool because it is meant to be evenly loaded there is an odd “tilt” that happens when it is unevenly loaded that can result in the lift 

As you can probably tell by my tone that I don’t love this method because we are trying to force something that is designed to be optimized with weights on both sides and TRYING to make into something else that it isn’t meant to be. If there are better ways, why not use them?

So, what SHOULD we do? If we are talking about loading the body on one side at a time, then we have tons of smart options.

Kettlebells are one of our favorite ways to load the upper body for more unilateral training. The simple fact is kettlebells are designed to be unilaterally used! Using them in the manner Jessica demonstrates helps us challenge stability because we have to resist lateral forces and keeping the load in the rack AS we press helps learn how to maintain tension as we press learning from the ground up!

Crawling is actually an example of unilateral upper body loading. However, not everyone can do it well. These progressions are all ways we use one sided loaded to improve overall core strength and stability training that makes us move and perform better without having to be too crazy with our loading.

Body Position 

Just like we can load the upper body one side at a time, we can do the same with the lower body, but it has to be progressive because the changes in our stability training are even greater! How do we do it though? There are several great strategies.

Half Kneeling

Using a position like half kneeling is so great because we can do so much from this position while teaching the body to deal with a more unilateral form of training.

Jessica shows great progressions of half kneeling that uses stability training to build healthier shoulders through stronger glutes and core. 

Sprinter Stance

One of our favorite ways of progressing lower body stability training is through using our Sprinter Stance. This heel to toe relationship allows us to incrementally expose people to any movement pattern and combine strength and stability training like DVRT Master Cory Cripe demonstrates.

Moving the Weight to One Side

While the above ideas are not purely unique to DVRT, the idea of moving the weight to a more unilateral position IS something that is special to DVRT. That means the weight starts in front of us and as we move the weight moves to one side of our body so we have to react to the weight so that really illustrates way SMARTER ways of using stability training.

What Cory demonstrates above is one of our many examples of our MAX movements (multiple axis) that best demonstrate these ideas.

When we put all these ideas together, we get some pretty amazing stability training workouts that challenge our fitness, but make us also so much better. To illustrate how we can put this all together check out firefighter captain, Jordan Ponder (a profession that deals a lot with one sided strength needs) break down how and why he uses our DVRT stability training concepts for better real world strength.

Find out so much more in our L.I.F.T. (loaded integrated functional training) certification modules HERE and total program HERE (get our Power & Strength Ultimate Sandbag for FREE with the complete set **only for US customers) for 30% off with code “lift1”. Find out how we use all these progressions to build a much bigger world of real strength.