The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of short-term unilateral resistance training (UL) and bilateral resistance training (BL) with free weights on several tests of unilateral and bilateral lower-body strength and power in men and women. Thirty-eight untrained men and women (mean body mass 78.3 +/- 21.47 kg; age 20.74 +/- 2.6 years) completed the study. The groups trained 2 days per week for 8 weeks with free weights and 2 days per week for 5 of the 8 weeks with plyometric drills. The resistance-training program consisted of a progression from 3 sets of 15 repetitions at 50% of the subject's predicted 1 repetition maximum (1RM) to 6 sets of 5 repetitions at 87% 1RM. Training volume and intensity were equal for each group. The free-weight squat was used to measure unilateral and bilateral strength. Power was measured by the Magaria-Kalamen stair-climb test and the unilateral and bilateral vertical jump test. Analysis of covariance was used to analyze differences between men and women and the interaction of group and gender. Pretest scores were used as the covariate. The UL group improved more than the BL group on the unilateral vertical jump height (p = 0.001) and relative power (p = 0.013). After adjusting for pretest differences, the improved scores on all tests, except for the unilateral squat, were similar between the men and the women. No significant interactions on all tests were found for the men or women comparison between training groups. These results indicate that UL and BL are equally effective for early phase improvement of unilateral and bilateral leg strength and power in untrained men and women.