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Here’s something most of us can agree on: Lunges are awful. No matter the type of lunges you are doing side lunge, reverse lunge, forward lunge. Very few people jump for joy when it’s time to do lunges —even less can jump afterward because of the exercise’s brutality. Like downing bad-tasting cough medicine, you get it over with, and afterward you’ll look and feel better.
Forward and reverse lunges are staples in many workout programs and are great for strengthening imbalance between sides, improving balance, and making your glutes pop. But among all this lunging fun, the side lunge is often overlooked. Why? Because it’s hard, and side lunges have you moving in a different plane of motion than your standard lunge, the lateral or frontal plane.
But strengthening your body in the frontal plane improves side-to-side movement, leads to better muscle development, and may reduce your chances of picking up the dreaded groin strain.
Here we’ll dive into all things side lunge for your lunging pleasure.
A lateral or side lunge is a frontal-plane unilateral exercise involving a side step. The reverse and forward lunge consists of a step back or forward in the sagittal plane, but the side lunge consists in stepping to the side and turns this lunge into a mobility and strength exercise.
Mobility because the nonworking leg is straight, which stretches and mobilizes the adductors or groin muscle. Plus, strength because the working leg trains the adductors, glutes, and quads. Once you have mastered body weight, you can load this exercise in various ways for lateral strength and muscle.
Almost all lunge variations train the same muscles but just from different angles depending on the version of the lunge you perform. With the side lunge, your lateral muscles are more involved due to the increased stability demands of stepping to the side. Here are the significant muscles trained by the side lunge.
These muscles work concentrically and eccentrically to get in and out for the side lunge.
The core muscles work to prevent flexion and extension of the spine and to prevent rotation of the torso when stepping to the side.
The sagittal plane is great because it’s where many gains happen. But sleeping on the frontal(lateral) plane is a mistake. Your body is a three-dimensional machine, and you should train like it.
Side lunges need strength and mobility to perform them, and if you have never done them before, stepping laterally is more complex than stepping forwards or backward. So, it is best, to begin with body weight before adding load.
Plus, the range of motion will vary because the adductors may be ‘tight,” which reduces hip mobility. But over time, this will improve when you regularly perform side lunges and mobility exercises focusing on the inner thighs. The moral of this story is don’t force any range of motion you don’t have.
Here are some things to watch out for when performing side lunges.
Unilateral exercises like the side lunge are ideal for strengthening imbalances, reducing injury risk, and improving muscle development between sides. They are not suitable for heavier weights and low reps. Nobody cares what your 1 RM for the side lunge is.
Side lunges, like most other lunge variations, are an excellent accessory exercise to perform after your big strength movement for the day to shore up imbalances and improve muscle and strength between sides. Although muscles are built across various rep ranges, training the side lunge between six to 15 reps per side works well.
Pairing it in a superset with core or upper body exercises is a great start. For example
1A. Goblet Side Lunge: 10-15 reps on each side.
1B. Half-Kneeling Shoulder Press:S 8-12 reps on each side.
When you have the body weight side lunge down, take these variations and alternatives out for a spin to add to your inner thigh and glute goodness.