When and why: bilateral vs unilateral?
Following last week’s post on the half-kneeling chop/lift and in anticipation of a series of articles on the specifics of chops & lifts, I had an in-depth conversation with Gray Cook, allowing me to see a new perspective on the exercise itself and its many variations. Additionally, most articles/blogs normally cover the “how” of any given exercise, not so much the “why”, benefits notwithstanding (which usually lead the way for featuring any given move).
Bilateral moves can mask an asymmetry, a 60/40 weight distribution that is being compensated during the movement, which can ripple into muscles working to hard and /or too little in certain areas. Single leg discrepancies are pretty common, as a result of th innate one-sided nature of many sports, like golf and tennis and it behooves us to address them, as they will be magnified in the half kneeling chop/lift exercise previously explored.
Why do we chop and lift? It’s innate to our existence, our most common movement patterns not even in sports: grab your backpack, briefcase, swing it over to your shoulder, empty the dishwasher and load things high in the cupboard, lift the garbage bag out of one container into another, usually by having to hoist it over a tall bin, which you then turn and roll.
Gray Cook mentioned that “as you consider neuroscience, you’ll realize crossing the midline in exercise is unbelievable; it’s absolutely huge. You’re definitely getting a lot of bang for your buck when activities force you to cross the midline. That’s why they’re so mentally fatiguing.
If you practice these exercises in a technically precise way, you’ll have a very high neural load—lots of processing. Twenty percent of your energy is going to the brain on any given endeavor, and when working on exercise precision, your brain is doing a lot. This is not mindless exercise. You’re going to be spent when you’re done. That’s by design.”
Spend more time during your practice on unilateral moves, give them a blanket ratio of 2:1 (weaker side:stronger side) for work quantity, and save the bilateral for your “regular” S&C sessions (squats, deadlifts).
When you don’t have access to an assessment, or an FMS (which ought to lead your training program), 1/2 kneeling chops/lifts and some single leg deadlifts will fry your brain plenty while rebooting the software and fatiguing the hardware. And when access is limited and you can’t go to a gym for fixed apparatus assets like a cable pulley system, or an anchor for your bands, the ProBar dials you in nicely for such moves.