I would like to ask if by doing an exercise unilaterally, burn more calories than doing the same exercise bilateral.

1 Answer 1


Anything that requires more effort will burn more calories, it's as simple as that. However, the increased amount of calories burnt in unilateral movements compared to bilateral movements is likely marginal at best.

If your goal is to lose weight, introducing unilateral movements into your routine isn't going to make a difference. You need to be in a caloric deficit in order to lose weight, it's as simple as that.

  • Initially I agreed with this, then after doing a lot of lunges last squat session I got thinking, if you squat for 10 reps with 100kg, does it burn the same (more or less) calories as doing 10 reps of lunges per leg (so 20 total reps) with 50kg? Having been through this, I was far more exhausted after the lunges than I was the squats (the key being for unilateral exercises, you do double the amount of reps because you work one side at a time)
    – Dark Hippo
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 15:49
  • @DarkHippo - In this case not only are you not doing the same exercise, but you also aren't giving your muscles the same amount of resistance. There was a small self reported study done among Reddit users wherein Barbell and Dumbbell Bench Press numbers were compared, and the conclusion was that individual arms could do roughly 36% of what two arms could do together. It's entirely possible that you might get a different result for legs, but the point here is that the limbs aren't 50% individually of what they are as a team. Again though, lunges and squats work the muscles differently as well. Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 20:48
  • One example of a unilateral vs bilateral movement wherein you're essentially performing the same exercise would be the dumbbell bench press. You can easily move both arms together or one arm at a time. You might end up having more rest time in the unilateral movement depending on how you perform it, but the same could happen with the bilateral movement - again depending on how you perform it. Here is the link to that short study though - reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/35q4i3/… Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 20:54
  • That's interesting, thanks. Every time I read unilateral, I don't think of dumbbell vs barbell, I think of training one limb or side at a time. So for a bench press, my idea of a unilateral version would be a single dumbbell bench.
    – Dark Hippo
    Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 10:00

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