The Plan

Unilateral strength training is simply training one limb at a time. When we do squats or barbell bench press or pull-ups, we are training bilaterally – both sides of the body at the same time. Most of the time, this is a perfectly effective mode of training. There are two reasons, however, to consider training unilaterally. First, most sport movements are performed one limb at a time. Think about it: how often do you get to put both hands on the same exact hold and pull with both at the same time? How often are your feet on the same size hold on the same horizontal plane?

Secondly, there is a physiological phenomenon called the bilateral strength deficit. What this means is that research shows one limb working alone is stronger than half of two limbs working together. For example, athletes routinely can single-leg squat more than half of what they can do in a traditional two-legged squat. This plays out in the upper body, as well.

The more force you can generate in training, the stronger you get. It follows that being able to train hard one-arm or one-leg at a time with result in greater gains in strength…not to mention that such training will be more specific to climbing. An added bonus: How about hitting a heavy unilateral training cycle when you have an injured arm or hand? What if you could actually move your strength forward somehow while you’re hurt? This 4-week plan addresses unilateral strength in resistance exercises, on the hangboard, and on a campus or system wall.

Training Details

The recommended pace of this plan is 3x per week with at least a rest day between sessions, like this:

M T W T F S S
Session 1 Limit Bouldering Session 2 System /Campus

This plan features two session templates for resistance and one System/Campus day:

Session 1:

3 rounds:
5+5 Dumbbell Row
5+5 Walking Lunge
5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow at 90 degrees

3 rounds:
5+5 One-Arm Overhead Press
5+5 One-Leg RDL
5s+5s One Arm Hang, Large Half Crimp, Elbow locked off

3 rounds:
45 sec hip mobility work
45 sec Knees to Elbows
5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

Session 2:

4 rounds:
2+2 One Arm Pull-Up (or regression)
2+2 Pistol
10s+10s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight
40-60sec hip mobility

4 rounds:
2+2 One-Arm, One Leg Push-Up
4+4 Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat
10s+10s One Arm Hang, Pinch Block, Elbow straight
40-60sec shoulder mobility

System / Campus:
Start with 10-15 minutes of a standard progressive bouldering warm-up.

Then:
5 rounds:
3x big move (feet on for launch) each side

5 rounds:
4+4x system ladder – crimps
Rest 1 min
4+4x system ladder – sidepulls or gastons
Rest 1 min

5 rounds:
1+1 Campus Ladder 3 hits
Rest 30 sec

 

Day 1: Session 1

3 rounds:

5+5 Dumbbell Row

5+5 Walking Lunge

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow at 90 degrees

 

3 rounds:

5+5 One-Arm Overhead Press

5+5 One-Leg RDL

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Large Half Crimp, Elbow locked off

 

3 rounds:

45 sec hip mobility work

45 sec Knees to Elbows

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

 

Day 2: Recover

 

Day 3: Limit Bouldering Session – 45-60 minutes after warm-up

 

Day 4: Recover

 

Day 5: Session 2:

4 rounds:

2+2 One Arm Pull-Up (or regression)

2+2 Pistol

10s+10s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

40-60sec hip mobility

 

4 rounds:

2+2 One-Arm, One Leg Push-Up

4+4 Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

10s+10s One Arm Hang, Pinch Block, Elbow straight

40-60sec shoulder mobility

 

Day 6: Recover

 

Day 7: System / Campus:

Start with 10-15 minutes of a standard progressive bouldering warm-up.

 

Then:

5 rounds:

3x big move (feet on for launch) each side

 

5 rounds:

4+4x system ladder – crimps

Rest 1 min

4+4x system ladder – sidepulls or gastons

Rest 1 min

 

5 rounds:

1+1 Campus Ladder 3 hits

Rest 30 sec

 

Day 8: Session 1

3 rounds:

5+5 Dumbbell Row

5+5 Walking Lunge

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow at 90 degrees

 

3 rounds:

5+5 One-Arm Overhead Press

5+5 One-Leg RDL

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Large Half Crimp, Elbow locked off

 

3 rounds:

45 sec hip mobility work

45 sec Knees to Elbows

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

 

Day 9: Recover

 

Day 10: Limit Bouldering Session – 45-60 minutes after warm-up

 

Day 11: Recover

 

Day 12: Session 2:

 

4 rounds:

2+2 One Arm Pull-Up (or regression)

2+2 Pistol

10s+10s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

40-60sec hip mobility

 

4 rounds:

2+2 One-Arm, One Leg Push-Up

4+4 Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

10s+10s One Arm Hang, Pinch Block, Elbow straight

40-60sec shoulder mobility

 

Day 13: System / Campus:

Start with 10-15 minutes of a standard progressive bouldering warm-up.

 

Then:

5 rounds:

3x big move (feet on for launch) each side

 

5 rounds:

4+4x system ladder – crimps

Rest 1 min

4+4x system ladder – sidepulls or gastons

Rest 1 min

 

5 rounds:

1+1 Campus Ladder 3 hits

Rest 30 sec

 

Day 14: Session 1

3 rounds:

5+5 Dumbbell Row

5+5 Walking Lunge

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow at 90 degrees

 

3 rounds:

5+5 One-Arm Overhead Press

5+5 One-Leg RDL

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Large Half Crimp, Elbow locked off

 

3 rounds:

45 sec hip mobility work

45 sec Knees to Elbows

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

 

Day 15: Recover

 

Day 16: Limit Bouldering Session – 60-75 minutes after warm-up

 

Day 17: Recover

 

Day 18: Session 2:

 

4 rounds:

2+2 One Arm Pull-Up (or regression)

2+2 Pistol

10s+10s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

40-60sec hip mobility

 

4 rounds:

2+2 One-Arm, One Leg Push-Up

4+4 Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

10s+10s One Arm Hang, Pinch Block, Elbow straight

40-60sec shoulder mobility

 

Day 19: Recover

 

Day 20: System / Campus:

Start with 10-15 minutes of a standard progressive bouldering warm-up.

 

Then:

5 rounds:

3x big move (feet on for launch) each side

 

5 rounds:

4+4x system ladder – crimps

Rest 1 min

4+4x system ladder – sidepulls or gastons

Rest 1 min

 

5 rounds:

1+1 Campus Ladder 3 hits

Rest 30 sec

 

Day 21: Session 1

3 rounds:

5+5 Dumbbell Row

5+5 Walking Lunge

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow at 90 degrees

 

3 rounds:

5+5 One-Arm Overhead Press

5+5 One-Leg RDL

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Large Half Crimp, Elbow locked off

 

3 rounds:

45 sec hip mobility work

45 sec Knees to Elbows

5s+5s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

 

Day 22: Recover

 

Day 23: Recover

 

Day 24: Limit Bouldering Session – 60-75 minutes after warm-up

 

Day 25: Recover

 

Day 26: Session 2:

 

4 rounds:

2+2 One Arm Pull-Up (or regression)

2+2 Pistol

10s+10s One Arm Hang, Half Crimp, Elbow straight

40-60sec hip mobility

 

4 rounds:

2+2 One-Arm, One Leg Push-Up

4+4 Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat

10s+10s One Arm Hang, Pinch Block, Elbow straight

40-60sec shoulder mobility

 

Day 27: Recover

 

Day 28: System / Campus:

Start with 10-15 minutes of a standard progressive bouldering warm-up.

 

Then:

5 rounds:

3x big move (feet on for launch) each side

 

5 rounds:

4+4x system ladder – crimps

Rest 1 min

4+4x system ladder – sidepulls or gastons

Rest 1 min

 

5 rounds:

1+1 Campus Ladder 3 hits

Rest 30 sec

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