Bilateral training refers to movements which use both limbs evenly such as a deadlift, back squat and barbell shoulder press. Unilateral training uses each limb exclusively such as a single leg deadlift, single leg squat and dumbbell shoulder press. You will find that both modes of training are important, however, which one is for you?
One obvious health benefit from unilateral training is allowing the strength and/or size imbalances between left and right side to minimize. Whether people are conscious of it or not, compensating on one limb over the other is something we are all guilty of when we get to the last two repetitions of a heavy set. Lifting unilaterally ensures each limb lifts the same weight equally. Another positive of unilateral training is the importance of joint stability. For example, using a dumbbell requires more effort from your joint capsules to steady the load in comparison to using a barbell. However, with any comparison, there is always positive and negatives with both. For instance, the stabilizers work more but this can harm your strength development consequently making bilateral training preferable when lifting heavy loads. Lastly, unilateral training also recruits more core musculature to ensure stability throughout the movement and keep you in a neutral spine position. Bilateral training will also recruit abdominals for certain movements, however, not as much in comparison.
Overall, just like any mode of training there is always going to be positives and negatives of each. The hardest part, is deciding which mode suits YOU more to reach YOUR training goals in. For more information regarding training principles and what works best for you, ask us at firstname.lastname@example.org.