Golf is a sport that requires a movement which is repeated on one side of the body often. If not addressed, the result will be one side of the body being stronger, more coordinated or agile than the same muscles on the other side of the body. While this dominance of a skill set on one side of the body may be, in all essences, a benefit for golf, it can increase the risk of injury when performing other tasks.
Unilateral training exercises can be a way of correcting the imbalances which occur from the one-sided aspect of the golf swing.
A bilateral exercise is one in which both legs and/or arms are working in unison to move a load. Exercises such as barbell squats, barbell bench press and barbell shoulder press are examples of a bilateral movement.
Bilateral exercises are both necessary and of a great benefit to a training program. However, if there are muscular imbalances it is all too easy for the dominant muscle groups to take over, affecting both the development and athletic performance of the weaker muscles.
Performing unilateral exercises can be an effective option for improving muscle imbalance in all areas of the body and assist in gaining overall strength for many of the traditional bilateral exercises.
Unilateral exercises are those which focus on a movement performed by a single limb or side of the body independently from the opposing limb. These include those which require dumbbells such as the dumbbell chest press or shoulder press. Even though both sides of the body are in use at the same time, the load is controlled and moved by the individual limb–in this case the arm.
Perhaps more effective for addressing the imbalances in opposing sides of the body, however, are the single side exercises, those which use one side of the body only.
The single arm lat pull down, seated row and dumbbell chest press are a few examples.
Many of the exercises–which can be done with both sides of the body at the same time–can be modified to be performed single-sided.
When performing any of these exercises it is important to remember the following:
- Start with a relatively light weight, allowing for adaptation and injury prevention.
- Have your stabilising muscles (core torso muscles) engaged to help control the movement.
- In the beginning, do the movement slowly working on getting the technique before the strength.
- If needed, have someone spot for you while you do the exercise. Preferably a gym staff member or someone who has spotting experience.
Injuries from muscular imbalance can be prevented and if addressed can be the resolution to many of the swing problems golfers experience. So when you are in the gym next time perhaps it is a one-sided approach that is needed.