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Mike Mahler's Weakest Link article

I understand that bilateral exerises with a barbell (like a barbell bench press) would reinforce a weakness, but why would dumbell exercises do this? When doing a bilateral dumbell bench press, when the weaker side tires, one wouldn’t be able to complete another rep. So why would you need to do these presses unilaterally? Wouldn’t just switching do dumbells (for upper body exercises) automatically address the weakness, without having to do the exercises unilaterally? Any comments on this?

Dumbells bring more muscles into the movement & isolate more. When you can’t do any more with your weak side, stop. That will bring up the weak side.

having not yet read the article, I can’t definitively comment on this, but I also thought that just performing exercises with dumbbells (bilaterally) would bring up the weaker side. Obviously training one side at a time will allow for greater focus on the side being trained, but I don’t know if it’s that necessary for exercises like db bench presses. I have used it effectively for 1-leg presses, lunges, overhead db presses, et cetera, but you’d think that the balance issue would preclude the use of heavy weights on a 1-armed db bench press…perhaps I should read the article before I dig myself a deeper hole!

Cam, that’s what I thought too, but Mike Mahler suggested doing dumbell exercises, like a bench or shoulder press, using one arm at a time. I really don’t see how it could bring up a weaker side any faster than just doing regular dumbell bench presses.

I think one arm db press as opposed to 2 arm db press is just variation for the nervous system and introduces a rotational component.

This has been an area of some contention for some time. The answer to the question is a qualified “yes”. If a lifter were to go to FULL-TIME bilateral dumbbell work and quit when his form started to fail on the weak side, he would probably eventually bring up both sides, assuming he was careful to use his non-dominant arm equally in all daily activities. Unfortunately, most of us have at least a two decade head-start on over-emphasizing the dominant arm! Think about it. When you carry reasonably heavy objects, like suitcases or even 45 lb plates, which arm do you use? When you have to push or turn an object with a lot of force, which arm do you use? Not only that, the core muscles are also typically loaded with preference to the loaded arm, reinforcing the dominant body side. Additionally, most of us have far more dexterity and coordination in our dominant arm. This makes it easier to train and more difficult to injure this arm. That’s probably why this plan requires greater emphasis on the non-dominant side…it simply evens out the work.

I have had some personal experience in this area. I neglected to prioritize rotator cuff training, although I regularly bench heavy weights. While I have performed external shoulder rotations in the past, I have recently been more dilligent in incorporating them in all bench sessions. My right shoulder was almost where it should have been, strength-wise, but my left shoulder was FAR weaker! Now that the strength strength differential has been addressed, BOTH shoulders feel much more structurally sound.

Another common strengh differential is in the grip. This is natural, because most people only grip either with their dominant hand only, or with both hands simultaneously. Most people who do not work their grip unilaterally will show a significant strength differntial on a hand gripper (like the IronMind grippers).

On a side note, Mike Mahler, the author of the article, (www.vegsource.com/articles/ mahler_weightlift.htm) is a vegetarian that doesn’t even eat eggs, milk, or cheese (a vegan), so I know I won’t be following all his advice (although he’s certainly well-conditioned, especially for a vegan). But I think he’s very sound on the unilateral arm training.

Yes, using dumbells will help address a weak link. However working both sides separately and doing more work for the weaker side will get you stronger much faster. Even when you use dumbells for exercises, you still have to stop when the weaker side tires. Thus, your strength plateaus. However, if you address that weak link by doing each side separately, the weaker side will catch up rapidly and you will be locked and loaded when you go back to pressing with both sides. -

Mike Mahler

The reason you using unilateral movement in my opinion since I have not read the article is to recruit more motor units on either whether one is weaker then the other. Also it increase your neuro-muscular pathway which will make your bilateral press a lot more easier and also balance and corodiation is involved in a uni-lateral movement. so is your core which is your abdominals and lower back. Thats why unilateral motion is so effective. not to “isolate your chest muscle” that full of Bull!

I agree fitone and that is another great benefit of unilateral training is that your core is activated tremendously to keep you stable.

Hey Mike thanks… How can I write some artice for T-mag???


Are you going to write a vegan nutrition article? While most of us probably won’t convert, it would be excellent information to have. Most of us could use some more variety in our diets anyway.

MarkR, I actually wrote one recently at:
www.vegsource.com/ articles/mahler_weightlift2.htm

Check it out and let me know what you think.


Mike Mahler

fitone, just write some articles and contact TC at tc@t-mag.com


Thanks. You should write a version for T-mag. This site is really good about presenting opposing viewpoints concerning training.