Today I wanted to share with you another trick of the fitness trade that can change up your workout routines in a simple fashion that will yield super results. “Alternating” or “singles” is a resistance training technique where you either alternate which leg or arm is performing the move (back and forth between right and left), or you work one arm or leg at a time through the required repetitions, and then switch to the other (10 reps on one side, 10 reps on the other).
This switching up of how you perform an exercises engages more secondary muscles, while gaining all the benefit of an isolation onto the primary muscles. It also requires more use of your core (and therefore more toning of same), increases balance and strength, and will re-exhaust muscles that have become plateaued from traditional simultaneous lifting.
They key is to know when to use which technique. For example, using alternating reps during a flat bench dumbbell press calls upon your abs and obliques to stabilize your core as one arm progresses through flexion and extension. At the same time, it allows you to lift a little heavier as neither arm is getting as exhausted during your reps, because they are taking turns.
On the other hand, performing singles in this same exercise (holding a weight in one hand only – the other placed passively on your hip or ribs) not only engages the same core muscles to keep you from falling off the side of the bench, but exhausts the arm which will break down the muscle faster.
The first approach is better for over-all toning. The second is more geared towards muscle size gain and strength, while still toning the mid-section.
Now let’s look at an example of these two styles with the legs. When performing step back lunges with alternating legs you will work on ankle, knee, and hip stability, engage your cardio system a bit more than stationary single leg lunges, and gain toning from hip to calf.
Performing a stationary single leg lunge, requires the same overall leg stability, and although taxes your cardio system less than the other option, you can impose heavier resistance (holding dumbbells at your side or over your head) which more seriously exhausts the glutes, quads and hamstrings.
As to which to employ and when, well again that’s a matter of your goals and your current fitness level. At some point or another, all my clients receive workout routines employing one or both of these techniques. So I recommend you give both a try and see what kind of results you achieve from both. As always, if you would like a customized workout routine that quickly and effectively helps you achieve your fitness goals, you know who to call! (Me, in case you weren’t sure.)