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Why the Side Lunge Is an Essential Part of Every Leg Workout

So many of your day-to-day movements are in one plane of motion: the sagittal plane (movement forward and backward). Think about it: walking, running, sitting, biking, and going up stairs each have you moving forward all the time. The thing is, moving in different planes of motion is what keeps you mobile, healthy, and able to execute more advanced movements. (You know, like tearing up the dance floor or grabbing your suitcase out of the airplane's overhead bin.) 

To incorporate those other planes of movement into your life, sure, you could walk around sideways all day—but it makes more sense to incorporate them into your gym routines. That's where the side lunge, or lateral lunge, (demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) comes in. It'll take your body into the frontal plane of motion (side-to-side) and take your workout to the next level. (See: Why You Need Lateral Moves In Your Workout)

Side Lunge Benefits and Variations

"The lateral lunge is a great exercise because it works the sides of the glutes (the gluteus medius), which are important stabilizer muscles for the hip joint, and are often underappreciated," says Mariotti. Moving in a different direction also helps you work your quadriceps muscles from another angle, she says. (Great news: There are a zillion lunge variations to work all the other angles of your lower body too.)

Mastering the side lunge (along with the forward lunge) will help you build strength and stability in each leg individually as well as improve your balance. Progress by adding a kettlebell or dumbbell, racked in front of chest. To scale back, either 1) don't squat as low, or 2) place a slider under the straight leg, sliding it out to the side while you bend the lunging leg.

How to Do a Side Lunge (or Lateral Lunge)

A. Stand with feet together and hands clasped in front of chest. 
B. Take a large step out to the right, immediately lowering into a lunge, sinking hips back and bending right knee to track directly in line with right foot. Keep left leg straight but not locked, with both feet pointing forward.
C. Push off the right foot to straighten right leg, step right foot next to left, and return to starting position. 

Do 8 to 12 reps. Repeat on the other side. Try 3 sets per side.

Side Lunge Form Tips

  • Sink into the hip of the lunging leg, activating the glute to stand.
  • Be sure not to drop the chest too far forward. 
  • Don't allow the knee to push forward over toes.

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