Lateral Lunges Muscles Worked
How To Do Lateral Lunges And The 4 Best Alternatives
By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1
Your complete guide on the muscles worked during lateral lunges and how to do them properly will help you become an expert on an underrated leg exercise that many people don’t do.
Lateral lunges are an overlooked exercise when it comes to well developed, healthy legs. Most people focus on squats, deadlifts, walking lunges, and machine training when it comes to training legs.
What’s the thing all those exercises have in common?
They all move in the same saggital movement plane while lateral lunges move you in the frontal plan, allowing you to work different muscles.
Let’s dig in!
Moving in the frontal plane (side to side) is going to allow you to work your inner thigh area (the adductor muscles), and your outer hip (the abductors).
Your adductors and abductors are responsible for helping move your leg away and back to the center of your body. They are necessary muscles to help keep you stable while moving or trying to balance on one leg.
You are also getting a bit of work on your glutes and quads, but there are better lunge variations to do if you want to target those muscles.
- Stand tall with your feet together.
- Take a big step to one side and land with your foot slightly pointed out.
- Start pushing your hips back as you sink your body into the side of the pointed foot.
- All your weight should be kept in your heels as you sink into the movement.
- The other leg should be straight. You’ll begin feeling the stretch in that straightened leg.
- Once you reach a point where you can’t go any further, push into the foot that you stepped out with to explode your body back up to the starting position.
Weighted Lateral Lunges
Once you get comfortable with lateral lunges and can feel the muscles being worked in the inner thigh, begin holding weight to provide a more difficult stimulus.
You can either hold one dumbbell goblet style or both dumbbells at your side.
One is not better than the other so do the variation that feels best for you.
Sliding Lateral Lunges
To make lateral lunges more difficult, use a slider on the leg you would normally step with.
Instead of stepping out into your lunge, now you’ll slowly slide your leg out to your end point and slide it back to the starting position.
Start with bodyweight and add weight when comfortable.
Lateral Lunge + Reverse Lunge
One of my favorite ways to mix things up with my client’s training is to combine two exercises into one.
Start by doing a lateral lunge and when you come back to the start, step back into a reverse lunge.
This will add additional work for your glutes and quads.
Reaching Lateral Lunges
Warming up the adductors is one of the best things you can do to prevent injury before a big leg day.
Taking a light weight and sinking in from side to side like you do in this exercise/stretch is a great opener to add into your workout program.
Since lateral lunges can be used as a warm up exercise or part of your main workout with dumbbells, your sets and rep ranges can vary greatly.
- Warm up reps - 1 sets of 8 reps/side bodyweight only (Pair with foam rolling your adductors)
- Beginners - 3 sets of 6 - 8/side as part of your main workout
- Intermediate & advanced lifters - 3 sets of 6 - 12 reps with a heavy dumbbell goblet style or two moderate sized dumbbells. Learn more about how many sets and reps for lunges to optimize your workouts.
Lateral lunges are a tough exercise because the adductors and abductors are underworked muscles for many people. With lack of strength in this region being paired with poor mobility, it makes for a difficult exercise.
If you are able to sink into a deep lateral lunge, you should feel it down your inner thigh.
On the press back to the start, you might feel it in your outer thigh of the other leg.
With the primary muscles being the inner and outer thigh, your hips won’t notice a huge difference when you do side lunges.
Bigger hips usually come from bigger glutes so you’ll want to focus on exercises like trap bar deadlifts, squat variations, hip thrusts, and forward or reverse lunges.
Lateral Lunge Muscles Worked Recap
Side lunges should be used as either a warm up exercise or part of your main workout. The muscles worked during lateral lunges will help you have more stability and help prevent injury.
Start bodyweight only and once you can do 8 reps on each side with good form, start adding dumbbells, sliders, and other variations.