Bilateral & Unilateral

It’s very common to see coaches and athletes promoting “unilateral exercises”, to help fight imbalances and develop strength evenly throughout your body. But what does this even mean? And what the heck is an “Ipsilateral”?! Let’s find out…

Bilateral & Unilateral

You might have noticed that a Bicycle has 2 wheels, and a Unicycle has 1 wheel. Plus, we learned in a different blog, something that’s lateral is on the sides (compared to medial which is towards the midline). So, when we put these together, something that’s bi-lateral has 2 sides, and something that’s uni-lateral has 1 side!


Bilateral = Involves both sides of your body, e.g. both arms, both legs.
Barbell Deadlift is a Bilateral Movement.
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Unilateral = Involves one side of your body, e.g. one arm or one leg at a time.
Single Arm Dumbbell Press is a Unilateral Movement.
Bi-&-Uni-DB-Press.jpg 163.85 KB

Ipsilateral & Contralateral

Two less familiar words that still crop up in training programs from time to time. We still know lateral means sides, and if you’re well versed in Latin (which I’m sure we all are!) you might know that Ipsi comes from the Latin Ipse to mean “same” and Contra meaning “opposite” - you might recognise it from Contradict, to have the opposite view.

Ipsilateral = Using/on the same side of your body, e.g. your right arm and your right leg.
Throwing a punch with your right arm while driving off your right leg is an Ipsilateral movement.
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Contralateral = Using/on opposite sides of your body, e.g. your right arm and your left leg.
Walking & running are Contralateral movements!
Bi-&-Uni-Walking.jpg 185.73 KB

It is a really great idea to include all 4 of these types of movement in your training program, it helps to keep your body balanced and highlight any weak spots! If you’re not sure where to start with that, End Range Training has a great mix built in.


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