SECTION 1: EXPLANATION OF MOVEMENT
Movement name: Lateral Lunge
Main muscle(s) working: Main focus: Quadriceps, gluteals , hamstrings, adductors
Other/auxiliary muscles worked: if applicable
Description: This movement has a greater activation of the adductors than other types of lunges, so it’s nice for targeting this more. It will target the adductors on the non-working leg. For example, when you step out to the left, the R adductors are being loaded eccentrically and also assist concentrically to get you back to the upright standing position. This will also work glute med as well because of the lateral movement occurring at the hip.
What movement does/why do it:
Improves single leg strength and stability, as well as hip mobility. Doing lateral movements like this is much less common and it’s good to train because in real life, we never truly move in one single plane of motion. From a functional standpoint, we move in multiple planes of movement and diagonals (we aren’t robots right!) For example, turning around 180 degrees requires rotational and pivoting movements that occur with the frontal, sagittal, and transverse planes (note from Rayzel: for awhile I could feel my knee pop in an unpleasant way when I’d pivot in the shower to turn around to get the shampoo – uggh- welcome to our 40’s right? But my training has drastically reduced this occurrence).
Function: This improves leg strength while moving side to side (frontal plane). A practical example is needing good leg strength when attempting to pick up an object that may be awkwardly shaped or in a location that doesn’t allow for you to be fully in front of it or allow for “perfect” lifting mechanics (cue the large Amazon box that has the biggest Instant Pot ever made you just ordered in it).
The lateral lunge will not only strengthen the leg you are moving towards, but it will also lengthen the muscles of the adductor compartment of the straight leg. If you’ve ever heard people use the phrase “hip opener” exercise, this is what they are referring to. By lunging to one side, we are essentially moving the hips in multiple directions – the working hip is moving into flexion while the opposite hip is in moving into extension.
Single leg strength will not only reduce injury risk, but it will enhance your ability to squat.
Main ROM: hip flexion, knee flexion, and opposite leg (contralateral) abduction
Equipment – choose one:
1 or 2 dumbbells or kettlebells
Suggested Starting Weight for Women: 10-20 lbs
Reps/Sets for growth: 3 sets, 10-15 reps each side, 2-3 days/week
Pace Options/Muscle Fiber types: slow to moderate pace; mix of fast and slow twitch
SECTION 2: HOW TO DO MOVEMENT
Cue: Wide step out to the side, sit your butt back slightly (hinge). Simultaneously push up with the working leg while you “pull” back up with the straightened leg.
Getting into Position:
Feet placement: Toes pointed relatively forward. The toes pointing slightly out is okay, provided it is not excessive. IF having your toes angled slightly out gives you more comfort and control, then it is safe to perform.
Body stance: Keep trunk upright as best as possible. It is okay for the trunk to lean forward a little bit, but try to maintain a good alignment of your neck and torso by hinging at the hips (bending at the crease of the hip without rounding the lower back)
Arm position: without weights, you can clasp your hands together lightly in front of you to help counterbalance your weight.
OUT: Practice with no weight first. If you haven’t done these ever or much, you will likely need to do only bodyweight for a time.
Take a wide step to one side (laterally).
Bend the knee as you hinge at the hip (sit your butt back).
Keep face looking straight ahead and keep chest/upper body upright.
A slightly flexed trunk is acceptable, but be sure to keep your head up and eyes forward.
It’s okay for the chest to come down/forward a bit, provided that the thoracic spine is not rounded.
That is part of what makes a hip hinge a hip hinge – otherwise it would just be uncontrolled spinal flexion which is not healthy for your back/spine.
Return back to upright position by pushing through the foot of the bent leg and bringing that leg back to the midline/starting position. “Pressing off” with a little needed momentum is completely fine, especially at lower depths. The idea is both legs are working together to bring your leg back up, this makes for a smoother, more controlled movement.
SECTION 3: AVOID
Avoid stepping too far out: If you step out too far to the side so that it’s too difficult to get back up, that’s obviously not a good thing and you can strain your adductors that way.
Avoid lifting heel of bent knee: the heel of the bent knee coming up off the ground (too much weight on your toe/front of foot).
Avoid collapsing non-working leg/knee/ankle: If you let the leg that’s straight kind of cave inward, that will put a lot of pressure on the inside knee.
Avoid folding torso over too much: if you are dealing with this, it could potentially be caused by a mobility limitation at the ankle and/or the hips, or a strength/stability issue. For ankle and hip mobility constraints, you can work at loosening these up over time.
Avoid rotating the torso towards the working leg: Umm so I learned this the uncomfortable way. I tried this (mostly thinking to myself, I wonder if this is a good idea?) and tweaked my hip flexor. You will be keeping your torso facing forward. If any rotation at the trunk would occur, the path of least resistance would be rotating away from the working leg. So for example, rotating trunk toward the L when down on the L leg, would require a lot of relative hip internal rotation and flexion on that side, if that makes sense. You put the hip in more a “closed packed” position, which can be uncomfortable. Youtube/Google a “FADIR” test for hip impingement if you’re curious 🙂
SECTION 4: OPTIONS
Stance options: You may take a step SLIGHTLY forward as you step out – the idea here is that it could provide a little more room in the hips to squat/lunge down in this stance.
With 1 weight:
1 Weight hanging down: hold weight in opposite arm hanging down as the working leg, then drive back without using momentum.
Single dumbbell or kettlebell front-racked against chest either wide, or in Goblet position (DB held vertically, or KB held upside down)
With 2 weights:
A. With arms hanging down, 1 weight in each hand. FRAME leg with the dumbbells, let chest come over your working leg so hips can hinge back. (i.e. lateral lunge to the left, the left arm will be on the outside of the left leg and the right arm will be in between the legs in the middle of the body)
B. Both weights racked against chest
C. Weights in front rack position (resting on shoulders)
SECTION 5: PROGRESS/REGRESS (MAKE HARDER, MAKE EASIER)
Make Easier Options:
Use a single dumbbell
Shorten range of motion (not as wide of step out)
Hold onto sturdy surface for balance
Perform regular squat then slide one foot out to the side slightly
Perform sitting/touching down to a chair
Make Harder Options:
Increase weight/use 2 dumbbells
If you are using a shorter side stance, increase the stance width
Alternate side to side
Squat lower to the ground (this would be more like a cossack squat)
stay in wide split-stance position and descend left and right
Keep wide stance plus tension in a “mini” squat position and move side to side
Clean the db (or kb) back to front rack position when returning from the lunge position back to start/standing position
SECTION 6: VARIATIONS
Equipment access/home layout:
Physical ability or limiting factors:
See “make easier” options above.
Adjusting targeted muscle activation:
You can also do the movement slightly opposite, where after stepping out into the lunge, your non-working straight leg is what you then bring to your working leg as you stand back up. From a challenge and “purposeful movement” standpoint to get the most benefit, doing this movement as originally shown – stepping out with the working leg, then returning to the non-working leg the best bet, especially for beginners.
SECTION 6: FOR BEGINNERS
Mind-muscle connection tips:
Knowing how to to perform normal squat and hip hinge are a must for this exercise. Think about the leg that you’re lunging towards as the “strength” leg and the straight leg is the “stretched” leg. Most of your weight will be on the bent/strength leg.
Partial parts of movement to learn and combine:
just practice stepping out laterally with a wide stance and back, then slight hinge of hips back.
Practice the hip hinge back in place in the lateral lunge stance