One Leg at a time: Unilateral leg training

Efficacy of single leg training

Single Leg Training can be utilized to support full bilateral functionality. The bilateral design of the body design requires smooth transitioning between left and right. The coordinating of the movement between sides is requisite foe many tasks. The body, over time, develops imbalances due to the repetition of tasks with a favored side. Single leg training can assist in establishing a more equitable distribution of strength and coordination throughout the total body.

Reasons for equal strength on both sides.

Unilateral specificity limits the ability to adjust to situations that (might) require engagement of the non-favored side. One sidedness makes one’s actions more predictable, more habitual. One action’s become ‘motorset’: that is to say that the neural faculties become ‘dialed in’ for specific, repeated actions. In this state,  the body performs as in a state of ‘autopilot’. This could be non-advantageous depending upon the degree of severity that could result from a mishap (a missed lay, a missed punch, a mis-positioning)  Dialed-in neuromuscular patterning can result in musculoskeletal complications (tightness, overuse)  The ability to shift from left to right/right to left with minimal reduction in force, in the athletic arena, can be definitely advantageous.

Hips stable, Ankles stable
Hip Flexion, Knee Flexion, Dorsiflexion

How imbalances occur

All people are born either left or right handed. Development promotes the sided-ness of using one side over the other. Sided-ness, more specifically right-handedness, is promoted is within society. Doors are typically designed to be oriented for right hand use. Buttoning shirts favors right hand manipulation over the left hand. At one time in society, right-handedness was enforced. Teacher would take writing utensils from the left hands of their students and place them into the right hands. To find items that cater to left-handedness was, in times past, challenging. The advent of the internet has made (these) sinistra oriented items more accessible. 

Balance and Focus
Stabilization through the core

Studies show that handed-ness correlates to footed-ness. Of the right-handed men, 75.5% preferred the right foot, 7.1% the left foot, and 17.4% both feet. Of ambidextrous men, 44.0% preferred the right foot, 28.0% the left foot, and 28.0% both feet. Of left-handed men, 32.3% preferred the right foot, 56.9% the left foot, and 10.8% both feet. The differences between these percentages were found to be statistically significant. Of the right-handed women, 89.9% preferred the right foot, left foot 1.2%, both feet 8.9%, whereas 50.0% preferred the right foot, 12.5% the left foot, and 37.5% both feet in the ambidextrous women. In the left-handed women, 8.8% preferred the right foot, 79.4% the left foot, and 11.8% both feet. The differences between these percentages were found to be statistically significant. The results suggested that the cultural differences among the difference study groups may be the reason for the inconsistencies with regard to hand and foot preferences.

With reference to our discussion, A significant correlation is seen between handedness and foot overlapping (P<0.005) in both males and females. Both females and males showed a significant correlation between foot preference and foot overlapping (P<0.01). their possible uses in genetics and in population comparisons.

Importance of stabilizers

Stabilizers are evenly stimulated when single-leg training is instituted into a training regimen. Stabilizers are less active when bilateral leg training is predominant. Inactivity of stabilizer muscles places the prime movers in a position of double duty. This can lead to muscle imbalance, muscle strain or, over time, chronic musculoskeletal challenges. It is necessary to have both varieties of training for maximizing and benefiting from strength gains.

Neurological implications

Yale University researchers first reported in 1894 that unilateral strength training of a single limb increased strength in the untrained contralateral limb. Now, 122 years later, experts agree that neural adaptations are at the core of the phenomenon, and that cortical, spinal, and peripheral mechanisms are all likely involved. Researchers have found crossover effects associated with training protocols that include isometric, dynamic, electrically stimulated, and even imagined muscle contractions, and eccentric contractions reportedly produce triple the contralateral strength gains than do concentric or isometric ones. 

Some studies imply that inducing bilateral equanimity can be counterproductive to an individual’s mental faculties (Left handedness being brought to a level equal to Right handedness). Yet, the ability to be even on both sides does not have to be even. Attaining equality in leg strength / ability for physical endeavors may be a more achievable endeavor.  ! personally have worked on even handedness (I am naturally a left hander) Through personal observation, I have not noticed any deleterious effects on (my own) cognitive ability.

Overall, unilateral training the of legs can be beneficial in an overall strength training regimen. Unilateral training addresses the slight imbalances that would be glossed over by tradition bilateral training. Daily activities and repetitive actions can skew the body towards a favored side. This may be good for a sport but it can give rise to issues of muscular imbalance. Handed-ness can be an indicator of footed-ness, can be an indicator of favoring a side. Stabilizing muscles may be more active on the favored side. Unilateral leg training can be used to activate the stabilizers on less active side. It is a challenge to overcome favoring a side because attention must be given to what one is doing and what one does. However, in the pursuit of ‘overall balance’, per se. the use of unilateral leg training is a must.    

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