Are Side Lunges the Key to Unlocking Your Fitness Potential?

Cathe Friedrich doing side lunges


Are lunges one of your go-to exercises? Traditional lunges are the cornerstone of a robust, well-rounded lower body workout. But if you only do the the standard forward-and-backward lunge, you’re overlooking the benefits that lateral lunges, or side lunges, bring to the table. Let’s look at the advantages of including the side lunge in your routine and what benefits you’ll get from doing so.

Mastering the correct technique is the bedrock of any fruitful fitness routine, and side lunges are no exception. Here’s how to perform a flawless side lunge:

  • Adopt the Right Stance: Stand with your feet together and hold your hands in front of your chest.
  • Make a Bold Step: Take a broad step to the left, stretching your left leg and bending your left knee to descend into the lunge. Make sure your right leg remains straight, but not rigid, with both feet pointing forward.
  • Return to the Starting Position: Push off your left foot to straighten your left leg, draw your left foot back to your right, and revert to the starting position.
  • Keep Repeating

When you perform this movement correctly, side lunges activate all the muscles in your lower body while boosting the stability of your ankles, knees, and hips. This compound movement pattern can take your leg-day routine to new heights.

Most of our daily movements involve the sagittal plane (forward or backward motion). However, the frontal plane (side-to-side movements) is vital for functional capacity. Incorporating side lunges into your routine helps you train this often-neglected plane of motion, boosting stability and mobility in the knees, ankles, and hips. It’s about equipping your body for lateral movements, ensuring balance, rotation, and resistance to external forces.

Our bodies naturally favor one side over the other and this favoritism can lead to muscle imbalances. Ignoring unilateral training can worsen these imbalances, which may heighten the risk of injury. Side lunges concentrate on one side of your body at a time, targeting muscles often overlooked in traditional leg workouts, such as the inner and outer thighs. So, adding side lunges to your routine will help you bid farewell to muscle imbalances and welcome a well-rounded lower body.

The lateral movement pattern of side lunges also strengthens your ankle joints, a crucial yet often neglected area. Robust ankles are your safeguard against sprains and injuries, ensuring your joints remain secure during workouts and daily activities. Maintaining a strong ankle foundation has a positive ripple effect through the kinetic chain, benefiting your knees and hips as well.

Side lunges are a powerhouse exercise that activates multiple muscle groups within your legs:

  • Hip Adductors: These inner thigh muscles provide lower-body stability and mobility.
  • Hip Abductors: Including the glute medius, these muscles play a crucial role in hip function and mobility.
  • Quadriceps: Working these large muscles is essential for leg strength.
  • Hamstrings: These muscles at the back of your thighs play a role in extending your hips.
  • Core: Your core is engaged to stabilize your body during the lateral movement.

One of the beauties of side lunges is their versatility. Whether you want to modify the exercise or challenge yourself further, there are variations for every fitness level:

If you’re seeking a gentler alternative to traditional side lunges, consider the chair sit side lunge. This approach reduces impact and offers a safer option for those concerned about potential strain or injury. It strengthens and stabilizes your hip joint, providing mobility without compromising safety.

Ready to intensify your side lunges? Add an explosive push when you return to the standing position. This modification recruits more muscles and provides a cardiovascular benefit, making your workout more efficient. Plus, incorporating a single-leg balance at the end of each rep challenges your stability and balance, taking your fitness routine to the next level.

Proper form is necessary to maximize the effectiveness of any exercise, and side lunges are no different. To ensure you maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of injury, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Maintain an Upright Posture: Avoid the common mistake of leaning too far forward during the lunge. Keep your chest proud, posture upright, and back neutral.
  • Knee Alignment: Ensure your knee doesn’t cave in during the lunge, and your heel stays firmly planted on the ground. Proper alignment is key to preventing knee pain.
  • Move with Intention: If side lunges are new to you, move deliberately to prevent ankle or knee injuries. Perform this unfamiliar lateral movement with care and attention.

Side lunges can benefit anyone looking to enhance their lower-body strength and mobility, especially if you play a sport.

Athletic Benefits of Side Lunges

Whether you’re a hockey player trying to skate around defenders, a tennis pro sprinting to return a blistering serve, or a basketball guard driving hard to the hoop, success in your sport depends on the ability to move laterally with speed, power, and control. Mastering the lateral lunge can give you that critical edge.

This powerful lower body exercise targets the muscles crucial for explosive side-to-side motion. As you step to the side and drop into a lunge, your adductors and abductors in the inner and outer thighs engage to stabilize your legs. Your glutes and quads fire to drive you back to standing. Meanwhile, your core tightens to keep your torso upright and balanced.

Lateral lunges build strength, endurance, and coordination in these lateral movement muscles. As you increase load and volume over time, you’ll notice:

  • Faster side shuffles and lateral cuts on the field or court
  • Greater stability changing directions at high speeds.
  • Enhanced agility to evade opponents.
  • Reduced risk of groin and knee injuries

So next time you train your legs, mix up sets of lateral lunges into your routine. Your sport-specific movements will feel smoother, you’ll dodge defenders with ease, and you’ll leave your opponents in the dust when you blaze to the goal. Lunging side to side builds the lateral power to take your athletic performance to the next level!

However, if you have a history of ankle or knee injuries, consult with a healthcare professional before adding side lunges to your workout regimen.

Getting Started with Side Lunges

To start, consider mixing side lunges into your fitness routine one to three times a week, depending on your workout frequency. For example, if you currently perform forward lunges twice a week, try incorporating lateral lunges on one of those days to diversify your movement patterns. With dedication and consistency, you’ll notice improved balance, stronger thighs, and fewer stumbles in your daily life.

Soon you’ll be stepping lively with improved balance and thigh strength. Side lunges are your ticket to unleashing the full potential of your legs. It’s time to take the lunge leap and step into a stronger, more agile you!


To wrap it up, side lunges are a game-changer for your leg-day routine, paving the way for improved strength, agility, and a balanced lower body. It’s high time to harness the might of lateral movement and unleash the untapped potential of your fitness voyage. So, dare to step beyond the usual and make side lunges an integral part of your leg-day work out for a fitter, nimbler you.


  • Riemann B, Congleton A, Ward R, Davies GJ. Biomechanical comparison of forward and lateral lunges at varying step lengths. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2013 Apr;53(2):130-8. PMID: 23584319.
  • Aube, Michelle A.; Taylor, Jeffrey B.; Westbrook, Audrey E.; Nguyen, Anh-Dung; Ford, Kevin R. FACSM. Muscle Activation Patterns during a Novel Lateral Lunge Jump Reaction Task: 749 Board #3 May 31 3. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 49(5S):p 191, May 2017. | DOI: 10.1249/01.mss.0000517359.05851.b2.
  • Jönhagen S, Ackermann P, Saartok T. Forward lunge: a training study of eccentric exercises of the lower limbs. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 May;23(3):972-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a00d98. PMID: 19387378.

Related Articles:

5 Effective Ways to Make Lunges Easier on Your Knees

Front vs Back Lunges: What Are the Advantages of Each?

5 Movement Patterns to Master for Greater Functional Strength

More Than a Leg Exercise: 5 Reasons to Love Lunges

Do You Hate Squats and Lunges?

Are You Making These Common Lunge Mistakes?

Squats vs. Lunges: Which is Better for Glute Development?

How to Get More Out of Lunges

Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs:

STS 2. Muscle & Recovery Program

STS Strength 90 Day Workout Program

All of Cathe’s Strength & Toning Workout DVDs
Total Body Workouts
Lower Body Workouts

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