Pre-season strength and conditioning are now entering the final phase! It's time for unilateral loading exercises. We are all very familiar with bilateral strength training. Simply put, it means you are working both limbs and sides simultaneously. Either both legs or both arms share the responsibility to work together to move a load; think a two-leg squat or Romanian deadlift. These are all great exercises to build strength and power, but we also need to address the ability to handle rotational forces as we slide around on snow; this is where unilateral loading comes into play.
Most of us, if not all, are slightly asymmetrical when it comes to strength in our limbs. This means one leg or arm will be stronger than the other. These muscle imbalances become most obvious when one limb has to support weight on its own during unilateral movements such as a single-leg squat or a single DB overhead push press. If the imbalance is too extreme, the disparities can sneak into bilateral movements. This sets you up for possible injuries to your knees, back and shoulders. On-hill, these forces might not pass through both feet and core muscles evenly.
These forces come at you in what is known as spiral/diagonal patterns (or spinning forces through your body from all directions). You need to prepare your body to handle these unique forces to prevent possible injuries and improve performance.
There is one more BIG bonus when you perform unilateral loading exercises. Unilateral loading exercises improve the development of your core to better handle the rigors of sports performed at the highest levels.
Ensure you are putting the priority on exercises that load one limb at a time at this point in your pre-season training. Examples include single-leg squats, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, one dumbbell single arm push press, and single-leg supine hip extensions. These are just a few of the many exercises you should be utilizing at this point in your training. The more time you spend on unilateral loaded exercises, the better you will perform and reduce the likelihood of injuries.
It's almost time to hit the snow with your teammates. Get as fit and strong as you can to be so you are ready to handle the unique forces of your sport.
This article is written by our Human Performance Director, Chris Hughes.
Are you interested in doing more pre-season training or have questions for Chris?