Single-limb training is perhaps one of the most neglected modes of training by the general population and amateur athletes, despite the vast range of health and performance benefits. As humans, the majority of our movements are dominated by a single-limb or an arm and opposite leg, requiring sequential coordination between numerous muscles and joints.
The current trend in the fitness industry is to overload the body in double-limb movements such as the squat, deadlift and bench press. While these are essential for developing musculature and strength, how many situations in our everyday lives and on the sports field can you think of that these movements mimic?
Walking, running, changing direction, climbing up stairs, climbing down stairs, climbing out of a car. These are all situations we’ve been in at some point in our lives, as well as situations which pose a risk of injury. Balance and strength imbalances are common concerns that we as coaches deal with on a daily basis, as well as an excuse for negativity and avoidance of the exercises that expose those weaknesses. Balance is a skill that can and should be trained by systematically improving the time at which proprioceptive messages are relayed from the sensory receptors in our bodies to the motor control region of the brain and back to the muscles to counteract changes in balance. This, like all forms of conditioning, can be improved through progressive overload (starting small with increasing difficulty).
Improving balance allows you to move efficiently and safely through a multitude of dynamic situations that we experience on a regular basis. In sporting situations, balance is required for optimal force transfer through different planes of motion, increasing straight-line and change-of-direction speed. It also keeps joints stable while acting on uneven surfaces and absorbing external forces through contact.
In older populations where falls, breaks and strains are prevalent, single-limb training will strengthen the stabilising muscles surrounding the at-risk joints, reducing the incidence of acute injuries. Post-Injury, or because of postural issues, a limb may dominate over the other during double stance movements as a result of the body’s habit of being as energy efficient as possible and activating the stronger side more. This must be addressed through single-limb work to ensure even distribution of loads through all the limbs, as well as appropriate rehabilitation from injury.
While traditional double-stance movements have a place in every conditioning program, single-limb movements are essential accessories that provide a welcome break from a society that seems to care more about how a body looks than how it functions.
At SG23, our holistic programs condition the body to function both in everyday life and on the sports field, as well as stimulate the necessary body composition changes that make these movements more efficient. Get in contact today to find out how.