The Side Lunge is a unique lower body exercise in that the Side Lunge does not feel like a standard lunge, or a squat. The Side Lunge is also a unique lower body exercise because it works not only the quadriceps (thighs) but the Side Lunge also targets the inner and outer thighs, hips, glutes and indirectly works the calves as well. For these reasons the Side Lunge is an excellent lower body exercise to compliment the lower body mass building exercises like the squat and the leg press.
Side Lunge Summary
- Main Target Muscle(s) Worked: Gluteus Maximus (glutes), Gluteus Medius/Minimus (Abductors), Quadriceps (quads), Adductors.
- Other Muscles (Secondary/Synergist/Stabilizers) Worked: Transverse Abdominus, Hamstrings, Soleus, Gastrocnemius, Tibialis Anterior.
- Mechanic Type: Compound (Two or more joint movements are involved).
- Force: Push (Concentric contraction of the target muscle when movement is away from center of body).
- Utility: Auxiliary (An optional exercise that may supplement a basic exercise).
Side Lunge Correct Exercise Procedure
- Starting Position: Stand with your feet parallel facing forward and hip-width apart.
- Stiffen your torso by contracting your core and abdominal muscles.
- Keep your head facing slightly upwards and shift your weight onto your heels.
- Inhale and slowly step to the side while stretching your groin muscle. Once the stepping foot is planted, the upper body and the side knee should not move forward during the lowering and raising of the body.
- Keep the upper body vertical, dip your lower body straight down until straight knee comes close to the ground.
- Hold the tension in the side leg, then while exhaling raise your body straight up and return to starting position.
- You may do repeated repetitions on a single leg before switching or alternate legs.
Side Lunge Tips
By using the tips mention below will help for the muscle(s) full development by incorporating more muscle fibers per rep, thus increasing the muscle's size and strength.
- Lunge length. Long lunge emphasizes the Gluteus Maximus as where a shorter lunge emphasizes the Quadriceps.
- Keep torso upright. Look straight ahead, straighten your back, chest up and pull abdominal muscles in tight while performing the Side Lunge.
- Knee pointing same direction as foot. Throughout the Side Lunge movement the lead knee should point the same direction as the foot.
- Proper lunge step. The proper Side Lunge step will allow you to align tibia (shin) over the placed foot.
- Keep heels of both feet flat on floor. While performing the Side Lunge the heels of both feet should stay flat on the floor as you allow your weight to shift into your hips.
Side Lunge Frequent Mistakes
Performing the Side Lunge exercise improperly, often referred to as cheating, will not allow for the muscle and muscle fibers to be use their fullest potential, resulting in not achieving desired development of the muscle.
- Not keeping torso upright. By not looking straight ahead or having your back straight, chest up and abdominal muscles pulled in tight while performing the Side Lunge, can cause loss of balance and add stress to lower back.
- Stepping to wide. Stepping too wide while performing the Side Lunge will not allow you to align the tibia (shinbone) over the place foot and the knee will fall inside the foot. Stepping too wide can cause knee damage and/or loss of balance, especially when using weights.
- Knee not pointing same direction as foot. If knee is not pointing the same direction as the foot throughout the Side Lunge movement, knee could twist causing loss of balance or damage to the knee.
- Not keeping heels of both feet flat on floor. By not keeping the heels of both feet flat on floor when performing the Side Lunge, can cause possible knee or ankle damage and/or loss of balance.
Side Lunge Variations
The Side Lunge can be done in slightly different ways. Most of the variations are a basically variations of equipment and are use for preference rather than changing target muscles or performance. For instance, if you are someone that desires to add muscle and mass, doing a Side Lunge with a barbell would enable you to go heavier than trying to do a Side Lunge using heavy dumbbells, which would not only be difficult, but awkward. Using the barbell also allows a better center point, easier stability and a better option for ensuring all the weight is focused on the target muscles. Here is a listing of the most common Side Lunge variations:
- Dumbbell Side Lunge. Perform Dumbbell Side Lunge as you would the Side Lunge, but increasing the lunge difficulty by holding dumbbells by your sides, therefore creating more muscle. When performing the Side Lunge you may also position the dumbbells one to the front and the other to the back.
- Barbell Side Lunge. Barbell Side Lunge is performed with a weighted or non-weighted barbell resting on traps and shoulders. Perform the Barbell Side Lunge as you normally would without the barbell. Barbell Side Lunge incorporates additional stabilizers Levator Scapulae, Trapezius Upper and Middle.
- Side Lunge with Medicine Ball. While performing the Side Lunge, lower the medicine ball towards the shin of the leg you are using in the lunge. The Side Lunge with the Medicine Ball will also strengthen the obliques.
Side Lunge Complimentary Exercises
Complimentary exercises are exercises that compliment the primary exercises, meaning they work synergistic and antagonistic muscles that the primary exercises need for balance and overall completeness.
- Squat. The squat is great complimentary exercise to the Side Lunge because this basic compound movement is a great mass builder for the legs, something that the Side Lunge is not.
- Leg Press. The leg press is great complimentary exercise to the Side Lunge because this compound movement can be used to develop great mass for the quadriceps. Depending on feet placement it can also be used to develop the glutes and hamstrings which tie into the quadriceps.
- Straight Leg Dead Lift (aka Stiff Legged Deadlift). The straight leg deadlift works several muscles that increases core body strength that will aid in performing Side Lunges. Muscles worked include: primary muscle; Erector Spinae, as well as the following synergist muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Adductor Magnus, Hamstrings; and stabilizing muscles: Quadriceps, Trapezius, Rhomboids, Latissimus Dorsi, Levator Scapulae, Rectus Abdominis and Obliques.
- Hyperextensions. Hyperextensions strengthen the lower back (Errector Spinae) which helps to develop a stronger core that's needed when performing lunge exercises. Hyperextensions also help strengthen the following synergist muscles: Gluteus Maximus (glutes), Hamstrings and the Adductor Magnus.
- Hamstring Curl. Hamstring curls are a great exercise to build and strengthen the leg biceps (Hamstrings). Quadriceps and Hamstrings should be given equal attention to avoid a muscle imbalance which can lead to injuries.
- Good-Mornings. This is an isolated movement that develops several muscles complimentary to those developed by the Side Lunge. Good Mornings primarily strengthen the Erector Spinae (lower back). The Good Mornings also strengthens the following synergist muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings and the Adductor Magnus. The following stabilizers are also worked: Quadriceps, Rectus Abdominis and Obliques, making Good Mornings an excellent complimentary exercise to the Side Lunge.
- Rear Lunge. Rear Lunge is a great auxiliary complimentary exercise to the Side Lunge because the Rear Lunge targets the Quadriceps while actively also working the following synergist muscles for a great quad/glute tie in: Gluteus Maximus (glutes), Adductor Magnus, Hamstrings, Soleus and Gastrocnemius (calves).
Bottom Line on Side Lunges
The Side Lunge is a great variation of the lunge and is an excellent exercise for developing the Quadriceps, Hamstrings and Glutes.
About Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn is a 61 year old natural athlete from Southern California. Lynn Glenn is a regular feature author for MuscleMagFitness.com and MyBestHealthPortal.com regularly writing about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, weight loss, and nutrition. To contact Lynn Glenn regarding personal training, or product endorsements, visit his personal page.