10 Unilateral Exercises For Martial Artists

Martial arts is a physically demanding discipline that requires strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. It’s not just about throwing punches or executing high kicks; it’s about moving your body in a way that maximises power, speed, and precision. Unilateral exercises, which work one side of your body at a time, are a critical part of this process, it is the performance of a movement or an exercise using a single arm or a single leg. They can help to correct imbalances, enhance stability, and ultimately, improve your martial arts performance. Here are ten unilateral exercises that every martial artist should incorporate into their training routine.


1) Single-Leg Squat

The single-leg squat is a powerful exercise that targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. It also challenges your balance, which is vital for executing complex martial arts techniques.

To do a single-leg squat, stand on one leg with your other foot hovering off the ground. Slowly bend your standing knee, lowering your body as far as you can while keeping your chest up and your back straight. Then, press through your heel to rise back to standing.


2) Split Squat

The split squat, also known as the Bulgarian split squat, is another fantastic unilateral exercise for martial artists. It works your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, and it also stretches your hip flexors, which can improve your high kicks.

To do a split squat, stand in a staggered stance with one foot in front of the other. Bend both knees to lower your body, then straighten them to rise back up. Keep your front knee over your front foot and your back knee pointed toward the floor.


3) One-Arm Dumbbell Press

The one-arm dumbbell press is a great exercise for your shoulders and upper body. It’s especially beneficial for martial artists because it strengthens the muscles used in punches and blocks.

To do a one-arm dumbbell press, hold a dumbbell in one hand at shoulder height. Press the dumbbell upward until your arm is fully extended, then lower it back down to shoulder height.


4) Single-Leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift targets your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It also challenges your balance and core stability, which are crucial for maintaining your stance during fights.

To do a single-leg deadlift, stand on one leg with a slight bend in your knee. Hinge at your hips to lower your torso toward the ground while extending your non-standing leg straight behind you. Then, squeeze your glutes to rise back to standing.


5) One-Arm Kettlebell Swing

The one-arm kettlebell swing is a dynamic exercise that works your entire body, particularly your hips, glutes, and core. It can help improve your explosive power, which is essential for fast, powerful strikes.

To do a one-arm kettlebell swing, hold a kettlebell in one hand with your arm extended toward the ground. Hinge at your hips and swing the kettlebell between your legs, then thrust your hips forward to swing it upward to chest height. Let the kettlebell swing back down between your legs to complete one rep.


6) Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

This exercise strengthens your back, shoulders, and arms – muscles that are crucial for throws and grapples.

To do a single-arm dumbbell row, place one knee and the same-side hand on a bench. Hold a dumbbell in your free hand with your arm extended toward the ground. Pull the dumbbell upward to your chest, keeping your elbow close to your body. Lower the dumbbell back down to complete one rep.


7) One-Legged Bridge

The one-legged bridge is a superb exercise for strengthening your glutes and hamstrings while simultaneously working on core stability. These muscles are essential in providing a stable base for both defensive and offensive moves in martial arts.

To perform a one-legged bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend one leg straight in the air. Push through your grounded heel to lift your hips off the floor, squeezing your glutes at the top. Lower your hips back down to complete one rep. Repeat on the other side.


8) Single-Arm Chest Press

The single-arm chest press is an excellent exercise for building strength and power in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. This can greatly benefit martial artists, particularly in strikes and blocks.

To do a single-arm chest press, lie on your back on a bench with a dumbbell in one hand. Press the dumbbell straight up until your arm is fully extended, then lower it back down to your chest.


9) Half-Kneeling Single-Arm Landmine Press

This exercise targets the shoulders, triceps, and core, improving upper body strength and balance. It also simulates the overhead punching motion, making it an excellent addition to any martial artist’s workout routine.

To perform this exercise, position a barbell in a landmine attachment or securely in a corner. Kneel down with one foot in front, so you’re in a half-kneeling position. Hold the end of the barbell in the hand on the same side as your back knee, then press it upwards until your arm is fully extended. Bring it back down to complete one rep.


10) Pistol Squat

The pistol squat is an advanced unilateral exercise that targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. It demands balance, flexibility, and strength, qualities that every martial artist needs.

To do a pistol squat, stand on one leg with your other leg extended straight in front of you. Slowly lower your body as far as you can, then press through your standing heel to rise back to standing.



Incorporating these unilateral exercises into your training routine will help improve your strength, balance, and stability, leading to better performance in your martial arts practice. However, as with any exercise routine, it’s crucial to maintain proper form to prevent injury and maximise the benefits. If you’re looking for a way to start these exercises, why not try Evolve MMA’s WarriorFit programme? The programme was created based on the strength and conditioning exercises of professional fighters, the Evolve WarriorFit Program will improve your fitness through a series of high-intensity workouts and exercises, conducted in a safe, fun, and supportive environment.

Remember, martial arts is not just about physical power; it’s also about mental strength, discipline, and consistency. So, approach these exercises with an open mind, and be patient with your progress. The journey may be challenging, but the rewards are worth every drop of sweat.


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