Single-Arm Training: The Ab Solution You've Never Thought Of

Why suffer through another boring, painful ab routine? Work your core by making it stabilize unbalanced loads. That's what it's there to do!

If you're like most people, you have two more or less distinct strength training programs: one for your core, and one for everything else. The second program can look a million different ways, but most core programs look about the same: Isolate each muscle and train for the burn. Isolate, burn, isolate, burn. Do those side bends, crunches, and flutter kicks, and then do them again, because no workout is complete without them.

We're engrained to think this is the only way. No matter how many times we're told that spot reduction doesn't work, our behavior says we still believe crunches and sit-up variations are actually capable of burning away abdominal fat and creating a lean, chiseled midsection.

Well, there is another way, and it comes with the benefit of building full-body strength and definition. I'm talking about asymmetrical loading. Also known as offset loading, it's a way of training that relies on full-body exercises where the weight is held only on one side of the body. An example is a dumbbell bench press performed one arm at a time.

Offset loading with upper and lower body exercises not only works the prime movers—chest, shoulders, back, thighs, butt, and hamstrings—but also challenges your abdominals to maintain a strong, tall and stable torso. By lifting weights in this fashion, your abdominals constantly must react to the shifting load placements. As a result, they get attacked from every angle. This is what core training is all about!

One Side, Two Workouts, Six Weeks, Six Pack ///

Any program that has the end goal of a six-pack comes with a caveat: you need a healthy approach in the kitchen in order for this to work. Seriously. Now let's talk training.

Your six-week full-body asymmetrical training program is built around a two-week rotation. Each week, you'll alternate between one of two strength workouts three times, along with three cardiovascular workouts. Your two weeks should look about like this:

Week 1

  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: Workout A
  • Tuesday: Easy cardio
  • Wednesday: Workout B
  • Thursday: Easy cardio
  • Friday: Workout A
  • Saturday: Sprints

Week 2

  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: Workout B
  • Tuesday: Easy cardio
  • Wednesday: Workout A
  • Thursday: Easy cardio
  • Friday: Workout B
  • Saturday: Sprints

Your cardio workouts can consist of any activity such as running, rowing, or cycling, performed for 20-45 minutes at an intensity of roughly 65 percent of your max heart rate. The sprint workout can consist of short, fast bursts of 10-30 seconds, alternated with the same rest period. An example is running on the treadmill hard for 20 seconds, followed by a 20-second easy jog. This should be repeated for 8-12 minutes depending on your current fitness level.

You'll use the same reps/set/break scheme for the entire 6-week period. However, try to progress each workout by using slightly more weight than last time, if you can.

You'll notice that every upper body exercise in the two workouts is paired with a lower body exercise. This allows one region to rest while you train the opposite region. It also makes for a high-paced style of training that will kick your fat loss into overdrive. This is a must because losing fat—in addition to eating at a slight caloric deficit—is the only way to see toned, ripped abs.

Offset Loading for Six-Pack Abs Program ///
Workout A

    Perform the first set of exercise A1 followed by the first set of exercise A2. Take the recommended break and continue with the second set of exercise A1 and exercise A2. Repeat this pattern until all sets of exercise A1 and exercise A2 have been completed. Follow the same pattern with exercises B1 and B2, and then C1 and C2.

    Superset

  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

    Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 reps per side, rest as little as possible
  • Single-Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat Single-Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

    Single-Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat (shown with two dumbbells)

    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 reps per side, rest 30 seconds
  • Superset

  • Single-Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Single-Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

    Single-Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 reps per side, rest as little as possible
  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

    Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

    5 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 reps per side, rest 30 seconds
  • Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg Raise

    Hanging Leg Raise

    3 sets of 12 reps, rest as little as possible
  • Alternating Renegade Row Alternating Renegade Row

    Alternating Renegade Row

    3 sets of 10 reps per side, rest 30 seconds


Workout B

Superset




Movement Notes ///

The technique with movements like the overhead press, bench press, and Romanian deadlift is not drastically different when using one dumbbell versus two. Just remember to brace your abs, because you no longer have a balanced load.

These four movements bear a little more explanation:

Single-Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat: Perform this movement with the dumbbell front-racked. This means when you are performing it on the right side, you'll hold it in front of your right shoulder with your elbow pointing down and your thumb pointing back at you.

Single-Dumbbell Forward-to-Reverse Lunge: Stand with your feet hip-width apart while holding a front-racked dumbbell in your right hand. Perform a forward lunge with your right leg. Then immediately step back and perform a reverse lunge. This is one rep. From here, step forward into another forward lunge. Perform all reps with the weight on one side before moving it to the other side.

Single-Leg Back Extension: Set the thigh pad of a 45-degree back extension bench to rest at just below your hip crease. Secure one leg underneath the footpad. Draw your shoulder blades back and get tall in your spine. Hinge forward, bending over the thigh pad. At the bottom of the movement, you should feel tension in the hamstring of the secured leg. Raise your back by squeezing your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Be careful not to hyperextend your back at the top of the raise.

Dumbbell Windmill: To perform this on the right side, hold a dumbbell overhead in your right hand with a locked elbow. Stand with your feet pointing slightly to the left. Slightly bend your left knee while keeping your right knee straight. Place your left hand on the front of your left thigh with your palm facing away from you. Turn your head and look up at the dumbbell. Hinge from your hips as you slide your left hand down your left leg. Keeping your eyes on the dumbbell, continue to stick out your butt as your bow forward. Stop when your fingers touch your left ankle, and then reverse the movement to the standing position.


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About The Author

Jon has coached and helped numerous clients reach and surpass their fitness goals, including high-level athletes, emergency personnel and more.

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Molinski44

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Molinski44

This is actually awesome - I don't always read these articles expecting to incorporate them into the next days workout. Great article and very interesting!

Jul 2, 2013 7:39pm | report
 
racks11479

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racks11479

Anything to help me sculpt my missing six pack! Great article!

Jul 2, 2013 8:31pm | report
 
bash69

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bash69

getting down to 8% bf and not retaining so much water would help alot

Jul 4, 2013 12:58am | report
KthxHibye

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KthxHibye

Interesting article... I could see employing some of these movements with the goal of increasing core stability for the normal 2 armed lift movement, and through that, increasing overall weight moved.

Jul 2, 2013 10:14pm | report
 
Paud

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Paud

Doing it right! Great article!

Jul 3, 2013 2:02am | report
 
dreambig1993

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dreambig1993

Great article I think. People care too much about lifting super heavy and forget to do things to help build the core aswell.

Jul 3, 2013 8:16am | report
 
asmith89

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asmith89

Interesting read for the morning!

Jul 3, 2013 8:44am | report
 
rennbj4

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rennbj4

Just added landmine press to the regimen every couple weeks... fantastic oblique workout.

Jul 3, 2013 9:01am | report
 
texascowboy1963

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texascowboy1963

Great article, have to give it a try!

Jul 3, 2013 2:37pm | report
 
bodyslim

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bodyslim

wow this sounds awesome! I will try A & B routine on my next workout!

Article Rated:
Jul 3, 2013 4:09pm | report
 
treek1811

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treek1811

Sounds like a great option for training!

Jul 3, 2013 10:33pm | report
 
JackShaw87

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JackShaw87

Sounds great!

Jul 3, 2013 10:54pm | report
 
CookieKidd

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CookieKidd

Great article.
Actually learned a new movement I plan on incorporating!

Jul 4, 2013 1:27am | report
 
czaveri

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czaveri

Great article! I often replace one or two abs exercises with very heavy front raises and barbell biceps curls with perfect form for a change.

Jul 4, 2013 1:00pm | report
 
krehns

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krehns

Yesterday, I threw in single arm shoulder presses on my shoulder day, just to try out this approach. I can feel some soreness in my core this morning, so I am very excited to incorporate more of these lifts to my plan. If one exercise gave me some soreness, I cant wait to see what I get when I go ham with it.

Jul 9, 2013 7:40am | report
 
TERI55

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TERI55

WOW...WHEN IM DONE WITH MY LIVEFIT 12 WK PROGRAM..I'LL TRY OUT JON'S PROGRAM...IT SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT FOR ME...FAT LOST IN THE MIDSECTION..THATS A PROBLEM AREA BIG TIME

Jul 16, 2013 8:48am | report
 
SlieneBrar

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SlieneBrar

Should we switch sides on every single exercise or keep it up all the 5 sets on the same side?

Jul 24, 2013 11:59am | report
 
patnshan

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patnshan

Switch sides and doing both sides would be one set

Jul 30, 2013 10:27am | report
mgeppel

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mgeppel

I've recently started incorporating 1-arm rows back into my routine after a break and I'm noticing how much it really works out my core.

Jul 29, 2013 7:58am | report
 
PoonTang

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PoonTang

I find this article very helpful. thanks

Jul 29, 2013 11:10am | report
 
patnshan

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patnshan

Nice! I actually just noticed how much my opposite side obliques feel it when I do one arm rows.

Jul 30, 2013 10:26am | report
 
Steponme

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Steponme

Just finished first week of workouts A and B off set training. By the time I got to Thursday A workout, felt I needed to add a set of squats. Also did a 10 minute warm up on a cardio machine before starting the workouts. Saturday did 16 min. sprints (25 min. total on treadmill) after one hour of yoga...awesome!

Oct 12, 2013 1:13pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 22 of 22 Comments

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