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Scott Taylor 359849

Bilateral vs Unilateral training

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Scott Taylor 359849

Hello all,

I've recently migrated from barbell training to gymnastic training.  After a 2 month stint of Starting Strength, my mobility was becoming compromised.  My quads & shoulders were tightening to an unacceptable level.  Being in my early 40's, that's not something I'm going to mess around with.

During those two months my barbell squat went from 105 to 250 at a body-weight of 150.  However, with that strength in place, i recently attempted a single leg lunge with 20lbs.  It was surprisingly challenging.  A pistol squat is very far away from possible due to lack of mobility.

What possible mechanisms would account for the difference in strength between the two movements (barbell squat & lunge)? 

Thanks,

Scott

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Alessandro Mainente

Hi Scott, you can simply analyze the movement and see that one leg exercises are affected from some hips mobility deficits and of course double legs exercise are affected by other hips mobility deficits. Also, the position of the spine is affected by one leg variation. there are many many many things involved.

the body reacts differently and the results are different strength level.

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Scott Taylor 359849

Hi Alessandro,

Understood.  It seemed very much to be a glute medius issue (where it was difficult).

It was surprising because unilateral training was "supposed" to transfer to bilateral movements per standard barbell orthodoxy.

That wasn't in line with my results.

Would you mind speaking to the "why" of mobility loss? I understand imbalances in my shoulder (pressing without enough pulling)...but why would my hips/quads tighten up to much with a squat/deadlift program?

Everyone is different, so if this is a unique case, so be it.  I'm just wondering if you've seen this type of reaction to weight training before?

I'm seeing immediate mobility improvements from the few days I've done the intro program.

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Coach Sommer

Hello Scott,

Not really understanding your questions as the writing is not clear.

1) have you recently transitioned from barbell to GST or transitioned from GST to barbell?

2) are you asking if unilateral transfers to bilateral or if bilateral transfers to unilteral?

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Scott Taylor 359849
Posted (edited)

Hello Coach,

Sorry I wasn't clear.  I've recently transitioned from barbell to GST.   

I'm asking why bilateral would not translate to unilateral.  The theory espoused in barbell training circles is that the entire body gets stronger.  It makes sense logically, but did not seem to carry over for me.  

Also, why would mobility from barbell training decline so rapidly?  Is it a case of adding load to a person already lacking mobility, thereby exacerbating the issue?

As an aside, your programs are excellent.  The level of detail, thought, and expertise is clear in the format of the progressions.  I'm looking forward to slowly becoming a better mover.

Edited by Scott Taylor 359849

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Alessandro Mainente
On 7/17/2019 at 10:13 PM, Scott Taylor 359849 said:

Hi Alessandro,

Understood.  It seemed very much to be a glute medius issue (where it was difficult).

It was surprising because unilateral training was "supposed" to transfer to bilateral movements per standard barbell orthodoxy.

That wasn't in line with my results.

Would you mind speaking to the "why" of mobility loss? I understand imbalances in my shoulder (pressing without enough pulling)...but why would my hips/quads tighten up to much with a squat/deadlift program?

Everyone is different, so if this is a unique case, so be it.  I'm just wondering if you've seen this type of reaction to weight training before?

I'm seeing immediate mobility improvements from the few days I've done the intro program.

body adapts to the range of motion. if the range of motion is only a part of the full range of motion fascia becomes tighter, the reflex is changed, the basic electrical response of the muscles is changed. GST per se does not make you more flexible for all your life, because can still perform only single leg squat and get hips limitations on the range of motion.

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Matthew Walker

I used to squat just shy of 400 and deadlift 485 for 5-6 reps @ 180lbs and there isn't a chance in hell of me doing a pistol squat without a good bit of work. Personally I know I leaned too far forward in my squats and a lot of the effort came from my lower back instead of my legs which probably contributed to my abysmal hip and ankle mobility.

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Alessandro Mainente

the problem is that squatting on 2 legs is possible also for people with bad ankle mobility because the 2 legs stance is useful to transfer the poor ankles mobility to hips mobility. if you do not have decent ankle mobility than you cannot squat on a single leg or you cannot go deep in the range of motion.

people experiment much compensation like tilting the hips to the side, tilting the knee inside, full pronation of the foot. all these compensations are part of motor pattern that you cannot train on 2 legs squat.

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Coach Sommer
On 7/17/2019 at 5:17 PM, Scott Taylor 359849 said:

Hello Coach,

Sorry I wasn't clear.  I've recently transitioned from barbell to GST.   

I'm asking why bilateral would not translate to unilateral.  The theory espoused in barbell training circles is that the entire body gets stronger.  It makes sense logically, but did not seem to carry over for me.  

Also, why would mobility from barbell training decline so rapidly?  Is it a case of adding load to a person already lacking mobility, thereby exacerbating the issue?

As an aside, your programs are excellent.  The level of detail, thought, and expertise is clear in the format of the progressions.  I'm looking forward to slowly becoming a better mover.

Hi Scott,

Appreciate the kind words, Scott.  Thank you!

In this case the logical supposition of the average joe is incorrect simply due to most trainees having little to no experience with properly structured unilateral work and are basing their opinions on this faulty personal bias; not real world experience.

As you have discovered unilateral work is excellent for dramatically exposing weaknesses in our physical structure.  The primary issue when people do unilateral work is that they go brain dead and attempt to use it as max strength work like they are used to doing with bilateral work where their leverages are maximized.  

To get the most bang for the buck with unilateral work, embrace it for what it is; an unmatched protocol for teasing out previously undiscovered ‘weak links’ in our physical prep - whether those weak links are muscle imbalances, weak stabilizers or poor ROM.  Or for those lucky few - all of the above!  For example, rather than using mega tonnage on a reduced ROM 90º 90º bent knee lunge, my new favorite is deepening the movement all the way to a split squat; get that knee way in front on the ankle, touch the glute to the achilles, mobilize those hip flexors by keeping the rear leg relatively straight - all with a long term goal of building up to a load of 100% bodyweight for 1x10r with either dumbbells or barbells.

As a side note; I always recommend starting unilateral work with your weak side first and then using that same weight or rep count for the strong side as well to prevent any muscle imbalances from either maintaining or even possibly increasing.

A nice long term leg day structure to aspire to:
Work your way thru the GB knee series as a part of your leg day warmup; 1x10r of each is fine.  If it takes longer than 5-7 minutes, this is strength work for you and not mobility and you should probably first spend a couple of months getting the series dialed in.   GB knee series:  SLS, STS, skiers, nLE, twisting squats, nGHR, inside squats, nLC.  This is the same series that I did twice a week with my own athletes for many years.

Progress to split squat work; 1-3x10r on each leg is fine.  If you have the itch for heavier work than proceed into bilateral work with either squats or trap bar deadlift.  Dynamic leg work like box jumps etc I usually do on a separate day.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer

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Scott Taylor 359849

Thank you very much for the information! The knee series is do-able for me excepting the twisting squat.  That's going to take some time.

 

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Jakob Gustav Olsson

@Coach Sommer

is this the exercise you referring to?

 

 

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Jakob Gustav Olsson

And @Coach Sommer

what could be an appropriate iM to Split Squats?! Single Leg Archups perhaps (and if so, what % of load relative to bodyweight should you build up to and for how many reps?)?! 

 

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Coach Sommer
20 hours ago, Jakob Ohlsson said:

And @Coach Sommer

what could be an appropriate iM to Split Squats?! Single Leg Archups perhaps (and if so, what % of load relative to bodyweight should you build up to and for how many reps?)?! 

 

Good question.  

I do not believe that a separate iM for split squats is required as there is already such a strong mobility component inherent in the exercise itself.

Yours in Fitness,

Coach Sommer

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Jakob Gustav Olsson

Got ya, Coach! 

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Matthias Schwartz

For those who were curious about the acronyms Coach Sommer used above in his knee series description, here are my best guesses as to what they are:

GB knee series

SLS : Single Leg Squats

STS: Side to Side Squats

Skiers

nLE: Natural Leg Extension

Twisting squats

nGHR Natural Glute Ham Raise

Inside squats

nLC: Natural Leg Curl

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