Lateral lunges can be great but you may want to switch up your workout routine. Discover some exercises with similar benefits.
Doing lateral lunges, also known as side lunges, instead of the regular version works your outer thigh and inner thigh muscles more on top of the more standard bigger leg muscles.
That means some of the benefits of lateral lunges include building muscle, burning calories, improving balance and coordination, improving mobility and flexibility, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy lateral lunges, find them uncomfortable on your knees, or want an alternative for any other reason, these side lunge substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Sumo squats
Take the following steps to do a sumo squat:
- Stand up straight with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and pointing outward at about 45-degree angles.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. Keep your back straight and your knees/upper legs in line with your feet.
- Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs.
The main attention points for the sumo squat are keeping your back straight, keeping your knees/upper legs in line with your feet, and pointing your feet outward.
By putting your feet wider apart and pointing outward, sumo squats focus more on the outer thigh and inner thigh muscles similar to lateral lunges.
A potential benefit for individuals who want to grow and strengthen muscles is that sumo squats don’t require that much balance. Some people consider this a downside of side lunges.
One important thing to keep in mind is that sumo squats are a lot less challenging than lateral lunges because your body weight is resting on both legs instead of one.
For resistance training beginners this can make bodyweight sumo squats a great alternative. However, more experienced lifters will need extra resistance to make this exercise challenging enough.
2. Lying side leg raises
The next side lunge alternative is easy to do at home without any equipment. That being said, a soft surface like a yoga mat can make lying side leg raises more comfortable.
Take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Lie down on your side with your body in more or less one straight line and adjust for stability.
- Raise one leg upward as far as comfortable or until it is at about a 45-degree angle with the ground. Make sure the movement comes from your thighs, not your hips or the rest of your body.
- Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.
One of the things that stand out in lateral lunges is that they engage your outer thigh and inner thigh muscles a lot on top of the more standard lunge muscles.
Lying side leg raises are an exercise that takes it one step farther. This movement isolates your outer thigh muscles, also known as your hip abductors.
If the straight leg version is too hard, you can start with a bent leg. On the other hand, you can also wear a pair of ankle weights or loop a resistance band loop around your legs to make the movement harder.
3. Lateral step-ups
For lateral step-ups, you will need a stable object strong enough to stand on at about knee height or lower.
A plyo box, a stepper, park bench, concrete platform, stairs, and even some weight benches are examples of objects you can use.
Once you have a good platform, take the following steps to do a lateral step-up:
- Stand upright next to an object with one shoulder towards it.
- Raise one foot and put it on the surface of the object. Make sure your sole is entirely on the surface and far enough so your other foot can be put on the platform.
- Raise your body by exerting pressure with the leg of the foot that is on the object. Make sure the upper leg is doing most, preferably all, of the lifting.
- Put your second foot next to the other one.
- Step down with the second foot.
- Step down with the first foot.
- Do the same number of repetitions with your other leg first.
Similar to lateral lunges, step-ups change in terms of muscle engagement when you do them sideways. More specifically, you work your inner and outer thigh muscles more.
That being said, these exercises are not complete substitutes. Lateral lunges focus more on the outer thigh muscles and lateral step-ups focus more on the inner thigh muscles.
At the same time, both add an extra dimension to regular leg resistance exercises. Depending on your training goals and personal preferences, lateral step-ups may be great to do instead of side lunges.
4. Bulgarian split squats
You again need a sturdy elevated object to do the next alternative to side lunges. Once you have that, take the following steps to do a Bulgarian split squat:
- Stand in front of the stable object with your back to it. Keep about a leg distance between you and the object.
- Move one leg back and put the foot of this side on the object. The top of your foot should lean on the surface of the object.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending the knee of your stretched leg until your hip is at about the height of your knee of the previously stretched leg. Use your arms for balance if needed.
- Push yourself up again into the position of step 2.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions on the leg of the other side to keep your muscle distribution balanced.
Bulgarian split squats are an exercise that mainly works your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
You do get a good amount of inner thigh muscle and outer thigh muscle engagement too, more than regular lunges, but not to the same extent as side lunges.
On the other hand, Bulgarian split squats are also easier when it comes to balance. This can be helpful for focusing on working your muscles as much as possible.
If/when bodyweight Bulgarian split squats become too easy, you can add resistance relatively easily. Simply hold dumbbells and/or wear a weighted vest that does not get in the way.
5. Resistance band crab walks
As the name of this next exercise implies, you will need a resistance band to do the movement. More specifically, a loop resistance band.
Once you have that, take the following steps to do a resistance band crab walk:
- Stand with your feet near each other, tilt your upper body slightly forward, bend your knees a bit, and loop a resistance band around your legs right above your knees.
- Take a step sideways with one leg while keeping the other leg on the ground. At the widest, your feet will be about shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and your knees pointing outward throughout the movement.
- Step sideways with your other leg towards the leg that just moved so that you are back in the position from step 1 but at a different spot.
- Do a few steps like this in the same direction.
- Move back in the opposite direction until you are back where you started.
Resistance band crab walks do engage your quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings to a tiny extent but they are more of an outer thigh muscle isolation alternative to lateral lunges.
Two potential benefits of crab walks are that they require a lot less balance than lateral lunges and that they are easier on your knees.
At the same time, you do still keep things interesting with the extra steps.