How to Do Side Lunges: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

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Lunges are an effective exercise that targets the lower body. Specifically, they work the glutes, hamstrings, and glutes. Another type of lunge that also engages the inner thighs is the lateral lunge (also known as the lateral lunge).

If you have any imbalances in your legs, you can combine them with leg swings. While exercises like squats work both legs at once, hip swings target each leg. This helps you strengthen your stabilizing muscles, improves balance, and creates symmetry in both legs.

Also known as: Side lung

Target: Lower body (buttocks, hamstrings, glutes, and inner thighs)

Level: The one who started

How to perform lateral lung

If you’re used to lunges, learning lateral lunges is a natural progression. You will need plenty of space on either side. For starters, no special equipment is needed. As you build your strength, you can choose to add more weight to this exercise.

Start in a standing position, feet hip-width apart. Place your hands in front of your chest.

  1. Step left foot wide to your side. Both your toes should point in the same direction and your feet should be flat on the floor.
  2. Bend your left knee as you step out and keep your hips back. It feels like you’re trying to sit on only one side of your lower body in a chair.
  3. Release the position by pushing your left foot back to the starting position.
  4. Do a swing on the left leg, then switch to the right leg.
  5. Repeat for additional sets.
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Side Lunge Benefits

Like the regular hip shake, the hip shake is an exercise for the lower body. They primarily target the large muscle groups in the legs, such as the hamstrings and glutes. The hip muscles also work the inner thigh muscles just like the outer thighs and glutes. Lower back bends can also be gentler than squats, although they tend to be more difficult than squats because they require more balance.

Performing side swings regularly can improve balance and stability (especially in the ankles and knees), beneficial for daily living activities. Keeping a good balance helps you easily go from a sitting to standing position, avoids falling and contributes to improving your body shape when exercising.

Strengthening the legs by swinging the hips can be especially helpful for those who enjoy skiing. When skiing, the inner thigh muscles, like the accessory ducts, are activated. Since hip shakes build strength in the outer and inner thighs, they are great to use in preparation for a ski trip or competition.

Other variants of the lateral lung

You can do this exercise in a variety of ways to meet your skill level and goals.

Side Lunge Balance Seat

Placing something in front of you, such as a sturdy chair, can help with balance during this exercise. Just be careful not to lean too far forward if you’re holding something in front of you. Stay with your right hand when lunging to the left and hold your left hand when going to the right.

Side lung has weight

To increase the intensity of your hip swing, shift only from your body weight to holding dumbbells in each hand. Instead of placing your hands in front of your chest, keep your arms at your sides. As you lunge to the side, the knee of your front leg should be between your arms, each arm holding a weight.

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Adding more weight not only makes this exercise more advanced, but it also contributes to increased overload. As you progress, you can continue to increase the weight of the dumbbell. This helps you strengthen your lower body and helps build muscle over time. You can also use a warm dumbbell for an extra challenge.

Lateral lung with straight line

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Progress from holding dumbbells still to an upright row. This adds a core challenge while also building strength in your shoulders.

  1. Start in a standing position, feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells with both hands in front of you.
  2. Step wide to the side with your left foot. Bend your left knee as you step outside.
  3. In a side-stepping position, lift the dumbbells straight up, swinging your elbows out and up until your arms are parallel to the floor. Lower the weights back down.
  4. Push your left foot to return to the starting position.

Cossack Squats

The Cossack squat is similar to the hip shake, except that you’ll go much deeper into the range of motion, rotating your feet at the bottom. This is a more advanced bodyweight move.

  1. Start as you would with a side bend, stepping left foot to the side.
  2. Once in a side-stepping position, continue to lower your butt toward your left heel and rotate your right foot outward, pointing your toes toward the ceiling.
  3. Reverse to return to the starting position.

Common mistake

While lateral lunges are beginner-friendly, it’s important to get the correct form to minimize the risk of injury. Avoiding these common mistakes will help you improve your appearance.

Diving too shallow or too deep

Stepping to the side too small while diving will not build strength and balance. On the other hand, leaning too much can strain the inner thighs and groin area. Knowing how important a step is when doing a hip shake isn’t a perfect science, but it’s an important factor in getting it right. Using a mirror can be helpful to make sure your alignment stays on track.

Your front foot (the one you step out from) should be at a 90-degree angle when you bend your knee, and your other knee should be straight and just a few inches off the ground.

Lean forward

At the deepest point of the lateral hip, your front knee knee is forward and your hip is back, so it can feel natural to lean your upper body forward. However, this will throw off your balance and can lead to sagging and poor posture. Although the side tilt doesn’t target the back, you want to keep your back as straight as possible because arching your back can strain your muscles.

Knees go over toes

Just like when you’re doing a regular squat and sit-down, your bent knee (the side you’re lunging on) shouldn’t go past your toes. This puts more weight on your body and can put stress on the knee joint.

Safety and Precautions

Performing any type of exercise, whether it’s bodyweight or side-weight leaning, should be taken seriously to prevent injury or strain.

People with existing knee injuries should be especially cautious. If you experience knee pain or discomfort while performing the hip swing, stop the exercise immediately and consult a healthcare professional.

Lateral lunges are generally safe during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy, but may need to be adjusted depending on physical fitness.


Incorporate this and similar moves into one of these popular exercises:

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