side lunges healthvipclub.com feature 1 - Side Lunges: How-To, Muscles Worked, Benefits, And More

Side lunges (aka lateral lunges) are a great strength training exercise and an effective way to target your lower body. Specifically, muscles worked in lunges include your glutes, quadriceps, inner thigh, and hamstrings (1). So, if you’re looking to add a new exercise into your weekly leg routine, then side lunges are a great way to go. Remember that using proper form while performing a side lunge is essential to reaping the most benefit (2). Doing so can help you improve your balance, stability, and support other activities such as running.  

How To Do A Side Lunge

If you already know how to do front lunges, then side lunges are a great way to progress as they activate other muscles (3). Because they’re lateral movements, it’s important to make sure that you have enough space on either side. Begin by following the step-by-step instructions below:

  1. Start with feet facing forward and spaced hip-width apart. Hold your hands in front of your chest in a way that helps you stay balanced. Keep your core tight and shift your body weight on your heels.
  2. While keeping your feet flat on the floor, inhale and take your left foot and take a wide step to the left. Bend at the hips and push backwards (stick your butt out) while keeping a tight core.
  3. Continue sinking into that left leg while your right leg is near extension. Be mindful not to let your left knee go past your toes while in the side lunge.
  4. Exhale and push off firmly from your left foot and return to your original position. This is one complete side lunge.
  5. Repeat the same movement with your right leg.

Repeat the side lunge movement for a total of 10 to 12 repetitions on each side. Beginners should aim for two to three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions until they get comfortable with doing them. And as you progress and grow stronger, you can increase your repetitions up until failure.

Once you get used to performing side lunges and ready to increase the intensity, you can add free weights to your routine for added resistance. 

Side Lunges With Weights

Just like with most workouts, adding more resistance can increase the intensity of the exercise. By completing lateral lunges with weights, you can build lower-body strength and increase muscle activation (4, 5). 

Complete side lunges with weight by holding dumbbells in each hand with your arms down by your side.

  1. With your feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart, inhale and extend your left foot and step to the left as before, sinking back into your left hip. If you’re holding the dumbbells down, your foot should not extend beyond your left arm.
  2. Keeping your hips back, bend your left knee as you step outward to the left while keeping your right knee near extension.
  3. Exhale and push off from the left foot and return to the original position, completing one weighted lunge.
  4. Repeat the same movement with your right leg. Do 3 to 4 sets per leg.

Use a weight that’s light enough for you to complete 12 to 15 reps.

Variations Of Lunges

Achieving your fitness goals often requires switching things up in order to avoid a workout plateau––the stage where the progress you’ve made from working out has stopped because your body has adapted to the movement. And as you become more efficient, you may burn fewer calories (6).

Therefore, doing an alternative to side lunges can keep your workouts interesting and challenging as you build your strength. 

Walking Lunge

Instead of stepping to the side, you’ll step forward. You may also perform a walking lunge going backwards as well.

  1. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Inhale and step forward with your left leg, bend your knees, and lower to a 90-degree angle––keeping your thigh parallel to the floor.
  3. Shift your weight forward onto your left leg while making sure to keep your front knee behind your toes.
  4. Hold for a beat, then repeat the movement with your other leg.
  5. Complete two to three sets with 10 to 12 reps each.

Static Lunge

Also known as the split squat, a static lunge is great for beginners as your feet stay in place and doesn’t require a stepping-out movement. 

  1. Start with a split-stance position, which is one leg forward and the other backward, with your feet hip-width apart. Your back heel will be off of the ground during the duration of the exercise.
  2. Now, inhale and lower yourself with your legs bending to a 90-degree angle. Your front knee should line up with your ankle, while the back knee is hovering just above the floor.
  3. Exhale and push into both feet to return to the original upright position. 
  4. Complete two to three sets with 10 to 12 reps each.

Reverse Lunge

This exercise is similar to the walking lunge, except that you step backward until your bent knee is hovering over the floor. This single-leg lunge type movement activates the posterior chain musculature significantly more than the walking lunge (7).

  1. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Inhale and step backward with your left leg, bend your knees, and lower to a 90-degree angle––keeping your thigh parallel to the floor.
  3. Exhale and shift your weight backward onto your left leg while making sure to keep your front right knee behind your toes.
  4. Hold for a beat, then repeat the movement with your other leg.
  5. Complete two to three sets with 10 to 12 reps each.

Curtsy Lunge

This lunge variation involves stepping back with your left leg and crossing it behind your right leg as if you’re doing a curtsy. 

  1. Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Inhale and step your left leg behind your right leg and lower to a 90-degree angle. The heel of your back foot should stay off the ground.
  3. Keep your front thigh parallel to the floor and knees bent while making sure to keep your front knee behind your toes.
  4. Exhale and push off your right leg and shift your weight forwards onto your left leg back to your original position.
  5. Hold for a beat, then repeat the movement with your other leg.
  6. Complete two to three sets with 10 to 12 reps each.

Recovery

Performing a lunges stretch after your workout may help lengthen your leg muscles and provide better flexibility and range of motion––especially beneficial for hip flexors, which are a group of muscles in, and surrounding, the hip that help the legs and core move together.

Muscles Worked With Lunges

Now that you know how to perform different variations of lunges, it’s important to really understand which muscles lunges work and how. Lunges primarily work your lower body, as well as support muscles needed for stability and mobility (8). Muscles worked with lunges include (1, 9):

    • Glutes
    • Quadriceps
    • Hamstrings
    • Calves, both the gastrocnemius and the soleus
    • The transverse abdominal muscles, part of your core
    • The obliques
    • The multifidus muscle, which stabilizes the spine
    • Spinal erectors, which rotate and straighten the back

What else do side lunges work, you ask? The inner thigh muscles, known as adductors, are activated as well as the outer glutes. By performing different variations of lunges, you can work on a range of different muscles which can, in turn, help build overall strength and functionality. 

Calories Burned During Lunges

We’re all curious: How many calories do you burn doing lunges? Research suggests that strength training exercises, aka lunges, are now classified as vigorous activity––burning more calories than researchers originally thought (10). 

In an experiment involving twelve young men, the energy expenditure of performing lunges was measured––resulting in a metabolic equivalent of 7.52. This means that doing lunges––a vigorous activity––can burn 306 calories in 30 minutes for a 155-pound person (11).  

While your energy expenditure will vary based on several factors, including weight and age, lunges can be beneficial to you in more ways than one.

Benefits Of Side Lunges

The benefits of side lunges go beyond just activating certain muscles and providing effective exercise options. These include:

      • Promote Weight Loss: As lunges work large muscles in the body, it increases calorie burn and helps to maintain a healthy weight (12).  And as you build more muscle, you can burn more calories (13).
      • Improve Stability And Balance: With side lunges being a single-leg movement, they help develop auxiliary muscles in the legs and back that are needed to stabilize your body, improving agility, and balance (14).
      • Strengthen Symmetry And Alignment: Lunges are especially effective in rehabilitation, straightening out misalignments and imbalances in the body (15). If you notice that one side of your body is more stiff or unbalanced than the other, then focus a little more of your attention to that side during your lunge workout.
      • Improve Posture: Performing lunges can help improve posture by simply strengthening core and back muscles (1). Additionally, this can help to ease daily activities and prevent lower back pain.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

As with any exercise, there are certain risks associated with not performing movements correctly (16). Working out can also be less effective if you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing. So, we’re sharing common side lunge mistakes to avoid during your next workout.

Avoid these 5 lunge mistakes (1):     

      1. Knee Caves In: Make sure that the knee of your moving leg doesn’t collapse inward. If you’re experiencing any pain during movement, then you’re not performing a lateral lunge properly.
      2. Feet Too Close: If your feet are too close after you step to the side, then your knee may travel too far past your ankle, which can lead to knee pain.
      3. Feet Faced Outward: Not keeping your feet faced forward can put too much pressure on your knee joint and cause your hip to compensate.
      4. Slouch Your Back: Rounding your back to balance while performing a lateral lunge can cause pain and discomfort in both your back and knees.
      5. Step Too Wide: Be sure not to step out too wide. This can prevent you from aligning the tibia (shinbone) over your placed foot.  

Conclusion

Having the right tools of knowing how to do a side lunge, progressing your workouts with different lateral lunge variations, understanding what muscles you’re working, and acknowledging the range of benefits can make it easy to prioritize side lunges into an active and healthy lifestyle.  

But implementing an active lifestyle doesn’t stop at side lunges. Learn about our 4 Types of Fitness To Improve Overall Health and make sure you’re creating a well-rounded routine so you’re getting the most out of your efforts. 

This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. HealthVIPClub.com assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nsca.com/contentassets/24dd7222ed1b4caeb8a0a46b81bd11f3/ptq-4.4.9-the-undervalued-lunge.pdf
  2. https://www.osrpt.com/2018/05/proper-workout-form-important/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5874004/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4640053/
  5. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2017/09000/hypertrophic_effects_of_concentric_vs__eccentric.31.aspx
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8834821/
  7. https://drjohnrusin.com/pain-free-lunging-the-forward-vs-reverse-lunge/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7112217/
  9. https://paulogentil.com/pdf/Systematic%20Review%20of%20Core%20Muscle%20Activity%20During%20Physical%20Fitness%20Exercises.pdf
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24402448/
  11. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-for-people-of-three-different-weights
  12. https://www.medicinenet.com/what_leg_workouts_can_i_do_at_home/article.htm
  13. https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/6702/so-you-want-to-spot-reduce-here-s-how/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6592422/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4641539/
  16. https://www.nsca.com/education/articles/ptq/the-undervalued-lunge/
  17. https://healthvipclub.com/types-fitness-improve-health/

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