Bilateral exercises are not required to improve strength, speed and change of direction

A typical strength and conditioning programme designed to improve strength, speed and change of direction will usually utilise bilateral exercises as a primary stimulus within an athletes programme. It is the Back Squat that is the number one exercise of choice and this is due to many research investigations finding a significant improvement in speed and power after 8 weeks of training (1,2).
However, recent research (3) investigated the effects of a 5 week – twice weekly strength training programme of either Back Squats (BS) or Rear Elevated Split Squats (RESS) in academy rugby players with an average age of 18 years. Results showed that both the BS and RESS had a significant affect on 1RM BS, 1RM RESS, 40m sprint and pro-agility times. These results highlight that unilateral strength training is equally as effective as bilateral strength training at improving measures of unilateral and bilateral lower body strength, speed and change of direction.
This research provides more ammunition to my philosophy of utilising predominately unilateral strength training exercises for footballers. Unilateral strength training in football makes sense for several reasons, including specificity which means a greater transfer from the gym to the pitch. To read more on this topic visit my previous blog


1. Chelly, M.S., Fathloun, M., Cherif, N., Ben Amar, M., Tabka, Z. & Van Praagh, E. (2009). Effects of a back squat training program on leg power, jump and sprint performances in junior soccer players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23, 2241-2249.
2. Comfort, P., Haigh, A. & Matthews, M.J. (2012). Are changes in maximal squat strength during preseason training reflected in performance in rugby players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26, 772-776.
3. Speirs, D.E., Bennett, M., Finn, C.V. & Turner, A. (2016). Unilateral vs. bilateral squat training for strength, sprints and agility in academy players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30, 386-392.