Let's talk unilateral (single arm or single leg) movements.
What are some examples?
When are they beneficial?
In new lifters, rehabbing lifters, or experienced lifters dealing with muscle asymmetries or strength imbalances. Also can serve to train stabilizers.
When are they not particularly helpful?
To increase bilateral strength in experienced lifters without muscular deficits or imbalances.
Experienced lifters are usually too strong to benefit from exclusively unilateral training. Including it within a mesocycle is fine, but there should be bilateral stimulus present as well.
Example: an experienced lifter squats 200lb, but uses 65lb for lunges in order to get each leg individually stronger in order to get a bigger squat.
It isn't wrong to use the lunge as an accessory movement, but the lunge would not directly correlate with an increased squat. There isn't enough stimulus (keeping in mind that in order get strong you need stimulus + overload).
What you can use lunges for as an experienced lifter, is as a hypertrophy movement to build the musculature that assists the squat.
An inexperienced lifter can get much more use out of unilateral work. It is not uncommon to be stronger in unilateral movements as a novice, and it can directly correlate with getting stronger with bilateral movements (lunges can increase squat strength in new lifters, cool ain't it!).
So here is your reminder to pick your accessories wisely!!
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Helpful articles from fitness how-tos to product reviews. Written by Katie.