5 Single Arm Strength Exercises to Improve Imbalance

Emily Beers


Vancouver, Canada



You’re doing a max bench press and the barbell starts to move on a bit of a diagonal.


You can’t hide anymore. One of your arms is stronger than the other.



Left-right muscle imbalances are incredibly common, not just with your legs, but also in the upper body, and an easy way to iron out these imbalances is to work on some single-arm strength.


Unilateral, or single-arm (or leg) work is also a great way to ensure you don’t overtrain your dominant side, which often starts taking over by default when it gets heavy. It also improves balance and core strength and helps with injury prevention and rehabilitation.


Below are five easy ways to get you moving in the right direction.


1. Top Loaded Banded Floor Press

This is a single-arm floor press with a twist. While you’ll only be pushing with one arm at a time, the other arm will be working in an opposing force by pulling a band. Not only will this help you build strength, but it’s also an effective way to build more tension through your core as you’ll naturally have to brace a lot harder than you normally would due to the push-pull action that’s happening simultaneously.


Note: Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your body with both the pushing and pulling arms, and make sure the pulling arm stays glued to the ground the entire time.


  • Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps per arm.




2. Top Loaded Banded Shoulder Press

This is similar to the above only now you’re pulling the band and holding it at the top of a chest-to-bar pull-up position, while the other arm rocks out shoulder presses.


  • Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps per arm.




3. Seesaw Shoulder Press

These are a great way to expose which arm is stronger, as you’ll certainly feel one arm start to tire faster than the other. Like the name says, this movement takes on a seesaw action, where one arm is pressing overhead as the other arm is lowering the dumbbell back down to the shoulder.


Keep these light with high reps to see if they expose a muscle imbalance. High reps will also help build some muscular endurance.


  • Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps per arm.




4. Single Arm Dumbbell High Pull

For anyone who has lingering shoulder issues, beware: Don’t do these if you feel pain, and stop especially if any discomfort gets worse as you continue to do reps.


Most people find one arm is considerably stronger than the other on these, which also makes them a great movement for ironing out strength imbalances. Make sure your elbow remains above your hand on these reps, keep the DB close to your body, and lower the DB slowly and with control.


  • Try 3 sets of 10 per arm. How heavy can you go for 10 reps?



5. Single Arm Ring Row

We have all done ring rows before, but the moment you turn them into single arm ring rows, you will look at the movement in a whole new light.


You will find you will probably have to keep your body much more vertical than you normally do with two arms. Make sure you keep a perfect hollow body position throughout the movement.


  • Perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps per arm.


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