2/18/10, Some Unilateral Work, Getting a Feel for The Weaknesses

Like anyone who loves to red-line things in the gym and on the track (and diet-wise, for that matter), it takes a bit of self-induced psychological slight-of-hand to persuade myself to take a lateral step (I refuse to call it a step back!) in order to clean up imbalances that may be a block to my furthering progress.  I know it needs to be done, and yet…well, let’s face it — I love the feel of flinging heavy weights at maximal speeds — that’s my kind of training!  However, in order to maximize power output in any given movement, we’ve got to ensure that the underlying foundation is rock-solid.  Maintaining (or better yet, improving) basic strength levels is one component of a healthy foundation — another important aspect, though, is unilateral strength and stability.  It is precisely this component — this functionality — that I’ve detected needs some work.  Of course the next logical question, then, is just how did I come to know this? Unfortunately I can’t give you a quantifiable answer, other than to say that I could detect a bit of an imbalance during a round of farmer’s walks last week — a little hitch in my giddy-up, if you will — especially upon setting down and retrieving the DBs (in an alternating, modified, single-leg fashion) at each mid-walk break.  My left leg felt strong and stable; my right, though felt a tad unstable, which subsequently led to a lack of strength (as compared to the left).  Anyway, my short-term goal will be to get this imbalance shored-up.

Just testing things out today, to get a better feel for where I stand.  After a warm-up that included plenty of ballistic stretching and 5 sets of light very light (though explosive) OHSs, I did 4 rounds of a modified single-leg straight-leg deadlift/single-leg thrust superset.

The modified, single-leg deadlift: Looking for an approximate 20-degree knee bend here at the bottom of the movement so as to more thoroughly engage the glutes. I prefer to use DBs for this movement, as this adds an additional element of balance-maintenance to the mix.  4 sets of six here (i.e., 6 right, 6 left), 45s, 50s, 65s, 65s.  Left leg could have handled substantially more, right leg felt a little shaky with the 65s.  No surprise, here.  The only question is, what happened to cause the strength in my right leg to fall off?  Things that make ya go hmmmm…..

The single-leg thrust: On what seems to be my go-to machine as of late.  Of course, I use it in a bastardized manner.  I’m wondering how long it will take before I’m tossed out of this gym  🙂  Anyway, what this winds up being is a 10-degree angled, single-leg step-up; almost a perfect sprinting “drive phase” angle, and it’s the same end-of-movement angle as in the thruster movement I did a few days ago.  4 sets of 7, alternating legs, and supersetted with the single-leg DLs discussed above.  Again the weight is pointless here (since we’re talking about a machine) — only a means for my own personal tracking; 90, 180, 230, 230.  Again, the left leg could have handled plenty more, the right leg felt a bit unstable at 230.  If the past is any indication, things will even-up relatively quickly — in my mind’s eye, though, this will seem to take forever  🙂  I already miss tossing around heavy things.

Other items of note –
Anyone catch the reportage on this interesting little n=1 blood glucose study (hat tip to Seth Roberts for this one)? Very, very interesting stuffespecially that on the topic of coconut oil!  A highly recommended read!

2/19/10 edit: here’s the direct link to the Seth Roberts forum piece – http://boards.sethroberts.net/index.php?topic=7511.msg96502#msg96502

Thanks to Brent (epistemocrat) for the catch!

7 responses to “2/18/10, Some Unilateral Work, Getting a Feel for The Weaknesses

      • Keith,

        I also suffer from a lack of symmetry due to an old injury: a fractured patella. My right quad is morbidly smaller than my left. I thought two years of bilateral squats and deadlifts would fix it, but it hasn’t. Could you recommend exercises I could add to the end of my routine that would help recover? I’m currently playing around with leg extensions, step-ups, and pistol squats but don’t have a solid routine.

        • I can’t really offer a routine per se, as any routine must be (in my opinion) a highly individualized affair, and dependent on one’s current abilities and weaknesses vs. one’s goals. That said, though, I can say, universally, that I would do your unilateral work prior to any conventional bilateral work you might undertake within the same session – unless we’re talking about speed-strength or strength-speed work (including sprinting), which I’d complete prior to performing any other movements. Also, I’d stay away from leg extensions (or machines in general) in favor of the pistol squats you mentioned, Bulgarian and/or rear-foot-elevated split squats, and a healthy dose of the modified straight-leg deadlifts I talked about in this post. I think step-ups – performed either at the conventional 90-dgrees, or at a lean-in (as described in the main post) are superb single-limb movements. One other thing – I don’t believe that one necessarily needs to go full ass-to-grass in a pistol squat to derive the most benefit from the movement, at least not all the time. I like to load-up a little more, and perform the movement to a descent, but not extreme depth. What exactly is “decent, but not extreme”? Oh, somewhere in the neighborhood of thigh-below-parallel, maybe a bit lower. And I’m not above using an adequately-placed box or bench as a touch-and-go device, and neither should you. Just avoid any “bouncing” off the implement.

  1. pretty simple really, the body in real life moves in more than one plane, and almost never on two legs planted perfectly even.

    If you’re training doesnt include transverse, sagittal, and lateral work, you’ll definitely suffer some functional loss…..and deficits in neural capacity


    • Just an empty Oly bar, up to 135. I use these in a ballistic/dynamic stretch fashion (with an extreme range of motion). Also, I start with my hands at the collars, and end up (on the last set) with hands at (what is for me) a normal clean grip position; still attempting to hit an OHS full range of motion with hands in close provides a great dynamic stretch.

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