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25-Minute Unilateral Core (Stronger 25, Day 9)

The best unilateral ab exercises to build a strong, stable core. These single sided ab exercises build deep core strength, increase core stabilization and reduce muscle imbalances. Each circuit includes an anti-rotation ab exercise, a rotational ab exercise and a stability ab exercise to build core strength from all angles.

This is DAY NINE of our Stronger 25 Program.

woman performing a bicep curl hold and dumbbell press out


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Build core strength, improve balance and stability, and reduce muscle imbalances with this 25-minute unilateral core workout.

This is the ninth day of our Stronger 25 Strength Training Program. We’re bringing back the circuit-style core training you loved in last week’s Standing Abs Workout (Stronger 25, Day 4), this time with a unilateral training twist.

Unilateral core is the first of its kind here at NML. You know and love our other unilateral workouts (like these Single Leg Exercises or this Unilateral Arm Workout).

Today’s workout takes that single-sided focus and applies it to all the muscles in the core.

Each circuit includes three different exercises: an anti-rotation exercise, a rotation exercise, and a stability exercise.

This combination effectively builds core strength for all the movements you perform in your daily life, improves athletic performance, and reduces injury risk.

two women performing a lunge hold and cross body rotation as example of unilateral core exercise

Unilateral Core Exercises FAQs

What is Unilateral Training?

Unilateral training is any type of exercise that focuses on one side of the body at a time. This is compared to bilateral movements, where both sides of the body are engaged. Unilateral training turns on the muscles that surround the spine and core, increasing strength, stability and balance.

Do Unilateral Exercises Work Core?

Unilateral exercises are some of the most effective and functional core training exercises. Training one side of the body at a time forces the core to engage and stabilize – which mimics many of your everyday movements.

What Are The Best Ab Exercises?

The best ab exercises mimic what the core is designed to do: stabilize the trunk of the body while the limbs move away. Examples include dead bugs, plank reaches and bird dog variations. If you are pregnant, substitute Pregnancy Ab Exercises after the first trimester. If you are a beginner or postpartum, I recommend starting with Diastasis Recti Exercises to build a strong core foundation.

two women performing a quarter get up as example of unilateral ab exercise

Strengthen the core and improve balance and stability with this Functional Unilateral Core Workout.

Each circuit in today’s workout includes one anti-rotation ab exercise, one rotational core exercise, and one stability and balance exercise. These different types of movements are designed to compliment each other, targeting the core muscles from multiple angles to create strength and definition.

I suggest doing these standing abs exercises once a week as part of a well-rounded workout routine.

Workout Equipment:

One medium-to-heavy dumbbell. I suggest anywhere from 8-25 lbs. We used 10-20 lb dumbbells in this workout.

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woman performing a glute bridge march as example of unilateral ab exercise

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided Unilateral Core Workout on YouTube, led by certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 3 Circuits (3 exercises per circuit)
  • Timed Intervals (40 seconds work, 10 seconds rest. Complete as many reps as you can in the timed interval.)
  • Repeat Each Circuit x2 Sets

Workout Outline

1. Single Leg Deadlift and Lateral Dumbbell Swing
2. Lunge Hold and Dumbbell Chop
3. ½ Kneeling Hinge Swing, Shoulder Press and Lower

1. Plank and Dumbbell Push
2. Dumbbell Pull Through to Side Plank Hold
3. Windshield Wiper Plank

1. Single Sided Dead Bug
2. ¼ Get Up into Reverse Plank
3. Single Leg Glute Bridge March and Dumbbell Pullover

two women performing glute bridge dumbbell pullovers as part of unilateral core exercises workout

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Unilateral Core

5 Unilateral Core Exercises

Single Leg Deadlift and Lateral Dumbbell Swing

Targets: Back, shoulders, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, obliques and core.

The “pendulum” swing constantly transfers weight from side to side, requiring all the stabilizing muscles in your core to turn on and engage.

two women performing a single leg deadlift and dumbbell swing

How To Do Single Leg Deadlifts and Lateral Dumbbell Swings

  1. Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold one dumbbell vertically between your hands in front of you.
  2. Balance on your right foot while floating your left foot off the ground, left knee bent and left thigh parallel to the ground.
  3. Hinge forward at the hips, pushing your hips back as you lower the dumbbell down the front of your body. As you hinge, extend your left leg behind you, performing a single leg deadlift.
  4. Hold this hinged position, as you begin to swing the dumbbell side to side, like a pendulum. Core remains engaged and stable. Aim to keep your hips in place as your shoulders move with the dumbbell, avoiding rocking open with each swing.

Modification: perform a staggered deadlift rather than floating your back leg, keeping 80% of your weight in your front foot and 20% in your back toes.

Lunge Hold and Dumbbell Chop

Targets: The deep transverse abdominal muscles, oblique muscles, legs, glutes, hips, hamstrings, quads, calves, back and shoulders.

two women performing a lunge hold with a crossbody chop as example of unilateral ab exercise

How To Do Lunge Holds and Dumbbell Chops

  1. Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold one dumbbell horizontally between your hands at hip level.
  2. Step your left leg back and bend both knees to 90 degree angles, finding a reverse lunge. Your front thigh should be parallel to the mat. Hold this low lunge position.
  3. Then, keeping arms straight with a slight bend in the elbows, perform a dumbbell chop; swinging the dumbbell cross-body from outside the left hip to over the right shoulder.
  4. Slowly and with control, lower the dumbbell first to your chest, then to outside your left hip, returning to starting position. Stay low in the lunge for the entire movement.

Plank and Dumbbell Push

Targets: Upper abs, obliques, transverse abs, chest, triceps, shoulders and back.

two women performing a three way plank with dumbbell pull as part of unilateral core workout

How To Do Planks and Dumbbell Pushes

  1. Start in a quadruped position on all fours, forearms flat on the mat, shoulder width apart. Stack your elbows under your shoulders. Place a dumbbell on a towel (if working out on a hard surface) or paper plate (if working out on carpet) next to your right hand.
  2. Extend your legs straight out behind you, with your toes curled under, so that your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to engage your core. Hold this forearm plank position as you begin to move the dumbbell with your right arm.
  3. First, press the dumbbell straight in front of you, fully extending your right arm then pulling it back so the dumbbell is stacked under your shoulder.
  4. Then, press the dumbbell out horizontally to the right, before pulling it back to center.
  5. Finally, push the dumbbell down, sliding it towards your right hip, before pulling it back to center.
  6. Continue this pattern, alternating a press forward, to the side, and down.

Modification: drop to your knees, performing a modified forearm plank. Option to perform with just your bodyweight, tapping your fingers in the direction of each push rather than dragging a dumbbell.

Single Sided Dead Bug

Targets: Rectus abdominis (six pack ab muscles), transverse abs (deep corset abs under the six pack ab muscles), obliques, hips, shoulders and back.

two women performing a single sided deadbug as part of unilateral core training workout

How To Do Single Sided Dead Bugs

  1. Lie on your back flat on the floor, performing a slight pelvic tilt to press your lower back into the mat. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing in.
  2. Lift your knees to form a 90-degree angle (knees stacked on top of hips), and extend your hands straight overhead toward the ceiling.
  3. Inhale, engaging your core and simultaneously extending your right arm and left leg away from your body. Left arm and right leg remain in place.
  4. Then exhale as you draw your right arm and back leg back to center, returning to starting position.

Modification: omit the dumbbell, performing this move with just your bodyweight.

Single Leg Glute Bridge March and Dumbbell Pullover

Targets: Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, hips, hamstrings, back and core.

two women performing single sided glute bridge marches as part of unilateral ab exercises workout

How To Do Single Leg Glute Bridge Marches and Dumbbell Pullovers

  1. Lie flat on the floor on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the ground. Hold a dumbbell horizontally between your hands, elbows slightly bent, hands shoulder width apart, palms facing in.
  2. Press through the heels to raise your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. This is a glute bridge. As you lift your hips, press the dumbbell straight overhead, wrists in line with shoulders.
  3. Hold this glute bridge position, then slowly lower the dumbbell overhead towards the ground. Keep your arms straight, with a slight bend in the elbows.
  4. Engage the lats to pull the dumbbell back towards your chest. As you raise the dumbbell, balance on your left foot and drive your right knee towards your hands, right knee meeting the dumbbell when it is stacked over your shoulders.
  5. Continue this pattern, slowly lowering the dumbbell overhead as you lower your right heel to tap the ground.

Modification: Omit the dumbbell, performing bodyweight glute bridge marches instead.

Stronger 25 Feature Image. Woman performing an oblique crunch and knee drive.

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Stronger 25 Day 9: unilateral core training workout

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