unilateral work, trabajo unilateral

Bigger and Strong Arms Through Unilateral Work

Go Single Handed To Recruit More Muscle

Over the years, I have found that when someone needs to specialize on their arm workouts, they benefit tremendously from starting their arm workouts with unilateral work such as One Arm Concentration Curls and One Arm Scott Curls. This might seem counter-intuitive to some of you who like bigger moves, but there are scientific and empirical evidences this is a good way to train.

Professional bodybuilders such as Dorian Yates and Lee Labrada have also espoused this principle, and no one denies that their arm mass was on point. Golden age bodybuilding legends Franco Columbu and Ed Corney  were also big fans of dumbbell work to increase mass of the biceps.

The Science Of Unilateral Work

Science has shown there is a reasoning behind this as well. It seems that once again, practitioners were ahead of the field. Recent findings from the field of neurophysiology clearly indicate the superiority of single arm work over bilateral work when looking at recruitment of higher threshold motor units.

Those are the type IIb fibers, with a high potential for growth as well as strength. It’s been known for decades that those fibers, although they have the most potential for hypertrophy, are also the toughest to recruit. Unilateral work helps you get them to work and grow.

On the biomechanical front, unilateral work does not lock the elbow joints into a position, thus it permits safer warm-up before the barbell work that normally follows. Also, I find that it teaches the athlete better concentration skills with the obvious added bonuses. An increase in mind-muscle connection is always a good side benefit!

One Arm Curl Is Where It’s At!

One of the best exercises I’ve used to train my pro athletes is the One Arm BARBELL  Scott Curls. Yes, you read right “BARBELL,” not dumbbell. This is quite a nasty exercise. Because of the width of the barbell you are forced to engage the supinators of the elbow intensively to keep the barbell parallel to the ground. Of course, it also has all the benefits of a regular unilateral curl, plus it recruits more total muscle mass in the elbow flexor group. Because of that, believe me, the soreness in your elbows flexors upon the following days will be out of this world.

Here is a demonstration of how I have my clients perform the exercise:

When designing an arm routine, it is best to start with unilateral for two reasons:

  1. Potentiates heavier loads
  2. Does a better job at warming up elbows, which is very important for the more mature lifter.

You can also include the same type of exercise with a dumbbell, as shown below

Enjoy the growth,

Coach Charles R. Poliquin