The effect of unilateral and bilateral strength training on the bilateral deficit and lean tissue mass in post-menopausal women

Abstract

Some have observed maximal strength of simultaneous bilateral homologous limb contraction is less than the sum of strengths of right and left limbs contracting alone; a phenomenon referred to as the bilateral deficit (BLD). There is controversy on whether there is a BLD for all exercises. We assessed whether a BLD occurs across different exercises (leg press, knee extension, and lat pull-down), whether the BLD could be altered with unilateral or bilateral training, and whether unilateral versus bilateral training was more beneficial for increasing lean tissue mass (LTM). Post-menopausal women (~57 years) were randomized to bilateral (n=14) and unilateral (n=12) training, or non-training control (n=24) groups. Bilateral training involved seven exercises performed with bilateral contractions (two sets, 3 days week−1, 26 weeks). Unilateral training involved the same exercises performed with one limb at a time. A BLD was found for leg press and lat pull-down, but not for knee extension. Bilateral training decreased the BLD; whereas unilateral training had minimal effect on the BLD. The unilateral-training group had a greater increase in lower-body LTM compared to the control group (P<0.05); however, there were no differences between unilateral and bilateral training groups. Both training groups had greater increases in LTM of the upper- and whole-body compared to the control group. We conclude that the BLD is apparent for some exercises (i.e., the leg press and lat pull-down) but not others (i.e., knee extension). Bilateral training reduces the BLD; whereas unilateral training has minimal effect on the BLD.

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Acknowledgements

The study was supported by a grant from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation.

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Correspondence to Philip D. Chilibeck.

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Janzen, C.L., Chilibeck, P.D. & Davison, K.S. The effect of unilateral and bilateral strength training on the bilateral deficit and lean tissue mass in post-menopausal women. Eur J Appl Physiol 97, 253–260 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-006-0165-1

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Keywords

  • Old
  • Bilateral index
  • Muscle
  • Female