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  • Writer's pictureAndray Voronov

Building a stronger core without crunches or planks

Unilaterally loaded exercises, also known as single-sided exercises, are an effective way to improve lower back health and core stability. These types of exercises involve using one limb at a time, rather than both limbs working together. Examples of unilateral exercises include single-handed suitcase carries, single-sided loaded squats, and deadlifts. According to McGill (2017), "unilateral exercises help to even out muscle imbalances and make the body more symmetrical."

One of the main benefits of unilateral exercises is that they help to improve muscle imbalances. When we use both limbs together, it’s easy for one side of the body to compensate for the other. This can lead to muscle imbalances, which can increase the risk of injury. By using one limb at a time, unilateral exercises help to even out muscle imbalances and make the body more symmetrical. Willardson (2008) states that "unilateral exercises also help to improve core stability." The core is made up of several muscle groups that work together to support the spine and pelvis. When one side of the body is working, the core muscles on that side have to work harder to keep the body stable. This helps to strengthen the core muscles and improve overall stability.

Another benefit of unilateral exercises is that they can help to improve balance and coordination. When we use one limb at a time, it requires more focus and control to maintain proper form. This can help to improve balance and coordination, which can reduce the risk of falls and injuries. According to Tsatsouline (2006), "unilateral exercises are also effective in increasing the overall strength of the lower back." Single-sided loaded squats, deadlifts are some examples of exercises which can be very effective in increasing the strength of the lower back, glutes, and the legs. Single-handed suitcase carries work on the muscles that are responsible for maintaining the posture of the lower back while carrying heavy loads.

It is important to note that while unilateral exercises offer many benefits, it's also important to include bilateral exercises in your workout routine. Bilateral exercises involve using both limbs together, such as traditional squats, deadlifts and leg press. Bilateral exercises are effective in working on the overall strength of the body, which is important for overall fitness and health.

In conclusion, unilateral exercises offer many benefits for lower back health and core stability. They can help to improve muscle imbalances, core stability, balance and coordination, and overall strength. It is important to include a mix of both bilateral and unilateral exercises in your workout routine to achieve optimal results.

Personally, I like to use unilaterally loaded versions of my primary exercises in the warm up. Keep in mind, the weight should be relatively light. Light enough to control and maintain proper movement mechanics. The goal is to avoid unwanted movements even through you'r loaded on one side. One thing that can often help with this is to watch yourself in front of a mirror. This way, you know if you start tilting or rotating to one side.

Give it a go if you want a guaranteed way to fire up your core before your next workout.


  • McGill, S. (2017). Low back disorders: Evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. Human Kinetics.

  • Willardson, J. M. (2008). Core stability training: applications to sports conditioning programs. Strength and conditioning journal, 30(3), 76-84.

  • Tsatsouline, P. (2006). The Russian kettlebell challenge: Xtreme fitness for hard living comrades. Dragon Door Publications.

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