If you're cramped for time and tempted to skip your workout, make it a bilateral-exercise day. Unlike unilateral exercises, which work one limb at a time, bilateral exercises engage both limbs simultaneously, which saves time. They can also help you discover weak muscles. For instance, when doing barbell bench presses, you might notice the bar rises in a slanted fashion, indicating that one arm is stronger than the other. If you're a beginner, master bilateral exercises before taking on unilateral exercises, because working one limb at a time forces your core to work harder to stabilize your body, making the exercise more challenging.
Leg presses and barbell squats are two bilateral exercises that effectively target your legs and also engage your tush. During leg presses, you position yourself in an apparatus and extend your bended knees against resistance. Barbell squats require you to push your hips back, bend your knees and lower your body as if you're sitting down on a chair, all while a holding a barbell behind your neck across your shoulders. Instead of a barbell, you can also use dumbbells or a squat machine.
To strengthen your shoulders, bilateral overhead presses and upright rows can do the trick. During overhead presses, you extend your arms up to the ceiling against resistance. Although you can do this exercise with dumbbells or a barbell, it's easiest and probably less intimidating to do it while sitting in a shoulder press machine, because the machine helps you balance the weight. For upright rows, in which you bend your elbows outward and slide the weight close to your body and up to shoulder level, use a barbell, cables or dumbbells.
For bilateral biceps curls and triceps extensions, use a barbell or dumbbells and move both arms simultaneously. Alternatively, use cables or a machine to do these exercises. To do biceps curls for the fronts of your upper arms, bend your elbows and bring the weight to your shoulders. To do triceps extensions to target that often neglected area of your upper arms, raise your arms overhead, bend them back at your elbows and straighten them against resistance.
While lying face up on a bench, you can do bilateral bench presses and flyes with dumbbells. You can also use machines to do these exercises. Bench presses, which you may also do with a barbell, require you to press the weight up above your chest as you extend your arms in the air. To do flyes, extend your arms straight up while holding a weight in each hand. Keep your palms facing each other. Open your arms to form a T-shape with your body and slowly close them to return to the starting point.
- Strength Training for Young Athletes; William J Kraemer, Ph.D. and Steven J. Fleck
- Men's Health: Bilateral Versus Unilateral Movements
- ExRx.net: Sled 45 Degree Leg Press
- ExRx.net: Barbell Squat
- BodyBuilding.com: Exercises for Massive Back, Chest and Shoulders
- ExRx.net: Barbell Curl
- ExRx.net: Barbell Triceps Extension
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.