Try This 20-Minute, No-Equipment Unilateral Workout for Total-Body Mobility

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Focusing on one leg at a time lets you know where your weaknesses are.
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com

Ever notice while doing arm circles or lunges that you have an easier time moving one limb through its full range of motion while you struggle to do the same on your opposite side? This unevenness has to do with lack of mobility.

To correct it (and avoid possible injuries), you have to train strategically. Enter: unilateral exercises. Working one side of your body at a time improves your mobility, as it enables you to focus on strengthening your less dominant (weaker) side, says Crystal Williams, a NYC-based personal trainer and group fitness instructor.

That's because single-limb exercises don't let you rely on your dominant (stronger) side to execute a movement, which can eventually lead to more muscle imbalances, she says.

"[They] challenge your balance, forcing you to engage your core during workouts (which is where most people struggle, or rather, what they forget to do) while exercising," Williams says. Since your core is your body's powerhouse, driving and stabilizing all movement, learning to activate those muscles is particularly important.

What's more, when you do one-sided exercises, "you can increase your workload either by volume or resistance since you're not exhausting both sides simultaneously, which ultimately will increase your overall strength level," Williams says.

Lastly, unilateral work improves your proprioception, meaning you can better concentrate on executing proper form in space, she says. For instance, when performing a single-arm shoulder press, you can develop and deepen your mind-body connection.

"[This] ensures that you start and return to the correct 90-degree position, which is harder to do while performing the same movement on both sides, especially for workout newbies," Williams says.

Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here — we’ve got something for everyone.

Try This 20-Minute, No-Equipment Unilateral Workout

Designed by Williams, this 20-minute, body-weight, unilateral routine will help mend your mobility problems and make your body stronger and sturdier for your bilateral workouts, too.

Do: moves 1 through 6, completing 12 reps on each sides, resting for 30 seconds between exercises. Shoot for 3 to 4 rounds total.

Move 1: Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Move 1: Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 4
Reps 12
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Lie down with your back on your mat with your feet planted in line with your sitting bones.
  2. Lift one leg into the air.
  3. Press through the planted heel, squeezing and activating the glute, to lift the elevated leg higher into the sky.
  4. Pause for a moment at the top, then lower to the ground.
  5. Complete 12 reps before switching sides.

Move 2: Bicycle Crunches

Move 2: Bicycle Crunches
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 4
Reps 12
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Lie on your back on a mat with your knees in tabletop position bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Elevate your shoulders off the ground and place your hands behind your head.
  3. Exhale as you twist one side of your body, bringing your right elbow to meet the left knee. Extend the right leg in a straight line as you twist.
  4. Return to the center tabletop crunch position without dropping your shoulders.
  5. Repeat on the same side.
  6. Complete 12 reps before switching sides.

Move 3: Side Plank With Knee Crunch

Move 3: Side Plank With Knee Crunch
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 4
Reps 12
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Lie on your side, hips, knees and shoulders stacked, elbow in line with the shoulder.
  2. Squeeze your floor-facing oblique to lift your body off the ground in a side plank position. Place your top hand behind your head.
  3. Bend the top knee, crunching your torso to bring it as close to the elbow as possible.
  4. Return to starting position, legs parallel to each other.
  5. Complete 12 reps before switching to the opposite side.

Move 4: Plank Shoulder Taps

Move 4: Plank Shoulder Taps
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 4
Reps 12
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Start in a high plank, shoulders in line with the wrists.
  2. Raise one hand off the floor and gently tap the opposite shoulder.
  3. Return hand to the floor and repeat.
  4. Complete 12 reps before switching to the opposite side.

Move 5: Lateral Lunge

Move 5: Lateral Lunge
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 4
Reps 12
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Stand with feet together.
  2. Lift one foot off the floor and take a wide step to the side, shifting your butt back behind you and sitting into your hip.
  3. Press through the heel to return to starting position and repeat.
  4. Complete 12 reps before switching to the opposite side.

Move 6: Split Squat Pulses

Move 6: Split Squat Pulses
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 4
Reps 12
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Start by stepping one leg back into a reverse lunge, ensuring both legs are positioned in 90-degree angles.
  2. Leaning slightly forward, swoop the arms above the head.
  3. Press through the front heel to squeeze the glue for a tiny, short pulse.
  4. Complete 12 pulses without resting before bringing the legs together.
  5. Perform on the opposite side.

Workout Finishers

After you've completed 3 to 4 sets of the above moves, complete your workout with these two finishing moves.

Move 1: Skaters

Move 1: Skaters
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 3
Time (In Seconds) 45 Sec
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Stand with your feet together.
  2. Lean forward as you take a large jump to one side, swinging the opposite leg behind your body. Extend one hand to the side and let the other tap the floor to maintain balance.
  3. Return to the starting position and alternate sides for 45 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 more times, for a total of 3 sets, resting for 20 seconds in between each set.

Move 2: Standing Single-Leg Balance

Move 2: Standing Single-Leg Balance
Image Credit: Crystal Williams/LIVESTRONG.com
Sets 3
Time (In Seconds) 30 Sec
Activity Mobility Workout
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Raise your arms above your head, triceps wrapped in, palms facing each other.
  3. Keeping one foot on the ground, raise one knee into the air, balancing on your standing leg.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds (or as long as you can until you lose balance), then repeat on your opposite side.
  5. Complete 2 more times for a total of 3 sets.
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