Training with unilateral resistance exercise increases contralateral strength

Joanne Munn*, Robert D. Herbert, Mark J. Hancock, Simon C. Gandevia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence that unilateral training increases contralateral strength is inconsistent, possibly because existing studies have design limitations such as lack of control groups, lack of randomization, and insufficient statistical power. This study sought to determine whether unilateral resistance training increases contralateral strength. Subjects (n = 115) were randomly assigned to a control group or one of the following four training groups that performed supervised elbow flexion contractions: 1) one set at high speed, 2) one set at low speed, 3) three sets at high speed, or 4) three sets at low speed. Training was 3 times/wk for 6 wk with a six- to eight-repetition maximum load. Control subjects attended sessions but did not exercise. Elbow flexor strength was measured with a one-repetition maximum arm curl before and after training. Training with one set at slow speed did not produce an increase in contralateral strength (mean effect of -1% or -0.07 kg; 95% confidence interval: -0.42-0.28 kg; P = 0.68). However, three sets increased strength of the untrained arm by a mean of 7% of initial strength (additional mean effect of 0.41 kg; 95% confidence interval: 0.06-0.75 kg; P = 0.022). There was a tendency for training with fast contractions to produce a greater increase in contralateral strength than slow training (additional mean effect of 5% or 0.31 kg; 95% confidence interval: -0.03-0.66 kg; P = 0.08), but there was no interaction between the number of sets and training speed. We conclude that three sets of unilateral resistance exercise produce small contralateral increases in strength.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1880-1884
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


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