Side Lunge – Your Guide to Proper From, Tips, and Variations


Doing single leg squats is a great way to isolate one leg at a time, but can be very difficult to execute.  The side lunge provides a great base for balance while isolating the same muscle groups as a single leg squat.

Side Lunge Summary 

  • Primary Target Muscles 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 the center of your body).
  • Utility: Auxiliary (An supplemental exercise that may complement an essential exercise).

Correct Exercise Procedure 

  • Stiffen your torso by flexing your core and abdominal muscles.
  • Keep your head angled slightly upwards while you keep your weight onto your heels.
  • Inhale and slowly step to the side, this can also provide a good groin muscle stretch.
  • Plant your stepping foot firmly for balance. Your upper body and your knee on your straight leg should not move forward during the lowering and raising of the body.
  • Keep your upper body vertical, and compress your lower body straight down until your straight leg comes as close to the ground as comfortable.
  • While maintaining tension in your side leg, press your body straight up returning to the starting position. Remember to exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down.
  • You may do repeated repetitions on a single leg before switching or alternate legs, or you may rock from one leg to the other as you repeat.
  • Remember to shift your weight fully to the other leg before you start the compressive movement.


By using these tips mention below will help the muscles full development by incorporating more muscle fibers per rep, thus increasing the muscle’s size and strength.

  • Change Your Lunge Length to Emphasize Different Muscles. A long lunge emphasizes the Gluteus Maximus as where a shorter lunge emphasizes the Quadriceps. A narrow stance side lunge is more of a single leg squat.
  • Keep Your Torso Upright. Looking straight ahead with your shoulders back, this will help you keep your back straight and your chest up. Additionally, pull in your abdominal muscles by flexing them while performing the movement.
  • Point Your Knee in the Same Direction as You Foot. Throughout the movement, the lead knee should point in the same direction as the foot.
  • Proper Lunge Step. The appropriate Side Lunge step will have your tibia (shin) of you weighted foot aligned directly over it.
  • Keep the Heels of Both Your Feet Firmly Planted on the Ground. While performing the exercise the heels of both your feet should stay flat on the ground as you shift your weight in your hips.

Frequent Mistakes  

Performing the Side Lunge exercise improperly, often referred to as cheating, will not allow for the muscle and muscle fibers to use their fullest potential, resulting in not achieving desired development of the muscle.

  • You Are Not Keeping Your 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.
  • You are Stepping to Wide. When you step too far when performing the side lunge, you will not allow your tibia (shinbone) to align over your planted foot. Consequently, your knee will fall inside the foot. Ultimately, stepping too far can cause knee damage and loss of balance, especially when using weights.
  • Knee Not Pointing the Same Direction as Foot. When your knee is not pointing the same direction as the foot throughout the Side Lunge movement. Having your knee pointed in will cause twisting and loss of balance or damage to the knee.
  • You are not Keeping the Heels of Both Your Feet Flat on Floor. When you don’t keep the heels of both your feet flat on the ground when performing the side lunge, can cause possible knee or ankle damage and loss of balance.


  • 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 providing more muscle resistance. There are many ways to hold the dumbbells for a side lunge: Goblet position, hanging between your legs, in a shoulder press position, or you may also position the dumbbells one hanging in front and the other to your back. Placing the dumbbells in front and behind can make it difficult to maintain good posture as you twist.
  • Barbell Side Lunge. You will perform the side lunge with a weighted or non-weighted barbell resting on traps and shoulders. Then complete the movement as you usually would without the barbell. Barbell Side Lunge incorporates additional stabilizers Levator Scapulae, Trapezius Upper and Middle.
  • Side Lunge with Medicine Ball. While performing the exercise, lower the medicine ball towards the shin of the leg you are placing your weight on. This movement with the Medicine Ball will also strengthen the obliques.

Complimentary Exercises  

  • Leg Press. The leg press is an excellent 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 strengthen the glutes and hamstrings which tie into the quadriceps.
  • 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 muscle imbalance which can lead to injuries.
  • 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

The Side Lunge is a complementary variation of the lunge and is an excellent exercise for developing the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Glutes.

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