The One-Side Argument for Amazing Abs

Not a day seems to go by that some new crazy abdominal exercise or gizmo hits the market promising quick and easy results.

By now I hope you know that spot reduction doesn’t work and that you can crunch and sit-up until your spine snaps (and it probably will after too many reps) and you still won’t be happy with the way your abs look.

And I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you know you just can’t put on some goofy waist belt that shoots electrical impulses and get a flatter, more toned tummy.

But how exactly do you get awesome abs?

Well, today I’m going to share the truth about abs and here are the 2 reasons why most fall short:

Reason#1– You need to burn the belly fat that’s covering up those coveted abs

Reason#2– You need to do the right exercises that build flat, chiseled abs so they pop when you flaunt them

What if I told you the best way to get a more cut core was to perform all of your exercises one side at a time?

And how slick would it be if we could combine these core-intensive one-sided exercises into one monster belly fat-smashing, muscle-sculpting total body metabolic circuit to take your abs to the next level?

Want to learn more?

Then keep reading 😉

I. Bilateral Versus Unilatateral Exercises?

Bilateral exercises simultaneously use both limbs in unison to generate force or move a load. Classic examples include double-leg exercises like squats, dead-lifts, and swings for the lower body and double-arm barbell exercises like presses and bent-over rows and body weight exercise like push-ups, rows, and pull-ups for the upper body.

Unilateral exercises involve each limb working independently of the other. This can be accomplished by either performing exercises one side at a time or by using training tools like dumbbells, kettlebells, and bands that allow you to independently push and pull your limbs at the same time or in an alternating fashion. Classic examples include lunging, 1-leg squat, and 1-leg hip-hinge variations for the lower body and 1-arm row, press, and curl variations for the upper body.

II. The Benefits of the Unilateral Training

One of the biggest reasons why most people hit strength plateaus on classic bilateral exercises like the bench press, squat, push-up, or pull-up is because of a strength and/or flexibility imbalance between limbs.

It is critical to understand that when it comes to performing any bilateral exercise, if one limb pushes or pulls harder than the other then the load will not move evenly.

Thus, a weak and/or tight side becomes the limiting factor for your performance and needs to be fixed if you want to progress. You must strengthen your weaknesses to make big and sustainable gains.

For example, if you are struggling with your squat, incorporate a healthy dose of 1-leg squats to both boost single-leg strength and achieve balanced strength between limbs. This will improve your 2-leg squatting as a direct result.

Furthermore, if you find yourself coming up uneven from the bottom on push-ups, the same thing can be achieved by working more 1-arm presses so you can strengthen the weak side and push back up with no problem.

Unilateral training allows you to assess and correct the weaknesses and imbalances that are holding you back from reaching your true athletic potential.

More specifically, when unilateral exercises are performed one limb at a time it will generate greater demands on your core muscles due to the imbalanced loading.

In fact, there’s great study called “Trunk Muscle Electromyographic Activity with Unstable and Unilateral Exercises” from the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research that proved just that. Check out the abstract from the aforementioned study below for more info:


The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to evaluate the effect of unstable and unilateral resistance exercises on trunk muscle activation. Eleven subjects (6 men and 5 women) between 20 and 45 years of age participated. Six trunk exercises, as well as unilateral and bilateral shoulder and chest presses against resistance, were performed on stable (bench) and unstable (Swiss ball) bases. Electromyo-graphic activity of the upper lumbar, lumbosacral erector spinae, and lower-abdominal muscles were monitored. Instability generated greater activation of the lower-abdominal stabilizer musculature (27.9%) with the trunk exercises and all trunk stabilizers (37.7-54.3%) with the chest press. There was no effect of instability on the shoulder press. Unilateral shoulder press produced greater activation of the back stabilizers, and unilateral chest press resulted in higher activation of all trunk stabilizers, when compared with bilateral presses. Regardless of stability, the superman exercise was the most effective trunk-stabilizer exercise for back-stabilizer activation, whereas the side bridge was the optimal exercise for lower-abdominal muscle activation. Thus, the most effective means for trunk strengthening should involve back or abdominal exercises with unstable bases. Furthermore, trunk strengthening can also occur when performing resistance exercises for the limbs, if the exercises are performed unilaterally.

(C) 2005 National Strength and Conditioning Association


III. Core-Intensive Unilateral Circuit Training

So now that we know that unilateral exercises are ideal for lighting up your core to build beautiful abs, how do we go about burning the belly fat covering them up?

The answer can be found in 3 words:


Circuit training consists of performing alternating sets of non-competitive exercises and thus allows for maximum intensity due to full recovery between movements. It is also by far the most time-efficient approach to melting off that chubby tummy.

I believe circuit training is the foundation of any solid fat-burning, muscle-building, and metabolism-boosting workout. Let’s take a look at two breakthrough scientific studies that support the fat-smashing, metabolism-cranking effects of circuit training:

Burn over 500 calories in 20 minutes: In a recent study by the University of Southern Maine, researchers discovered a more accurate method of estimating calorie burn from weight training than had been used previously. They discovered that a weight training circuit burned 71% more calories than previously thought. In fact, an eight minute circuit burned somewhere between 159 and 233 calories which breaks down to about 20-28 calories per minute!

Elevate metabolism for up to 38+ hours post-workout: In a study by the European Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers determined that a 31-minute circuit training protocol of three compound, multi-joint movements significantly elevated metabolism for 38 hours post-workout– at which point they decided to stop tracking. This metabolic afterburn was due to a couple of factors. The first is due to increased tissue turnover due to the need to build and repair muscle microtrauma after high-intensity training. The second is due to increased Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) due to the oxygen debt created by high-intensity anaerobic exercise.

And by building a total body circuit that burns belly fat while using core-intensive unilateral exercises that build rock-hard abs, we can achieve the best of both worlds!

IV. Putting It All Together- 45-15 Unilateral Circuit Training

Now that we know the method behind the madness, below is an outline of both the equipment and bodyweight versions of this incredible sample workout templates:

Equipment-Based Metabolic Workout Routines

Equipment- 45-15 Unilateral Circuit Training: 20 Total Minutes. You will alternate between 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest for all 5 unilateral exercises in the following circuit. Be sure to complete both the left AND right side before moving on the next exercise.


Equipment-Free Metabolic Workout Routines

 Body Weight- 45-15 Unilateral Circuit Training: 20 Total Minutes. You will alternate between 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest for all 5 unilateral exercises in the following circuit. Be sure to complete both the left AND right side before moving on the next exercise.


This workout will really strengthen your weaknesses and dramatically improve your muscular endurance and overall exercise performance.

Do you think you can handle the 45-15 Unilateral Circuit Training Challenge??



Committed to your health,


Heath Herrera, M.Ed., CSCS, YFS1
Metabolic Training Expert
Owner, Head Coach

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