Move of the Week: The Side Lunge

BY seth and Zenon Dolnyckyj TIMESeptember 3, 2012 PRINT

The side lunge is a great exercise for improving balance, joint stability in your legs, and hip mobility. If you are very new to this exercise, you may place your hands on your upper thighs for support. However, don’t get used to doing this because you will become dependent on it.

To improve core strength, you must challenge your core by placing stabilizing demands on it. Use your own core strength to support your torso during this exercise as soon as you are ready for the challenge.

Tightness in the groin and inner thighs is very common, and the side lunge helps to actively stretch those areas while you work out. At the same time, you will work the outside of the hips. Plus the side lunge benefits ankle and knee stability while building hip strength and mobility.

That’s a lot of good reason to start hitting the side lunge.

Performing the Lunge

It is important to note that the side lunge is predominantly a hip action. Your knee bends, but it does so to accommodate the hip and torso bend.

Do not lower yourself by bending your knee. Instead, bend at the hip by reaching your buttocks behind your heel. Make sure the heel of the foot that you are lunging toward stays planted.

Warm-Up Variation

Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width, but not so wide that it’s hard to balance.

Place your hands at the top of your thighs.

Keep the left leg straight and shift your weight to your right leg by reaching your buttocks behind your right heel and allowing yourself to lean forward to counterbalance the buttocks reaching back.

Pushing through your right heel, stand back up and stay in a wide stance. Repeat on the other side.

Bouncing back and forth is a great way to open the inner thighs and groin and get used to feeling the hip action. Once that is easy, take your hands off your upper thighs and pull your navel in to activate your core and low back support.

Moving Variation

Stand with your feet together. Lunge to your right side. Step far enough that it is a long step, but not so far that it becomes hard to balance.

As you plant your right foot, shift your weight back into the right heel by bending at the hip and allowing the knee to accommodate the movement.

Push off your right leg with speed and strength so you have the momentum to get your feet back together. Repeat on the other side.

More Challenging

A more challenging way to come out of the lunge is to stand up on the leg you lunged onto. So if you are lunging right, bring your straight left leg together to the right. Repeat as you travel sideways across the room.

Once the side lunge becomes easy, you can pick up some dumbbells and add some arm curls or shoulder presses as you side lunge.

 If you do decide to use dumbbells, choose a lighter weight than what you’re used to. Full body exercises can be very taxing. Always err on the side of caution. You can always work harder tomorrow. But if you hurt yourself, you won’t be working out at all.

Zenon Dolnyckyj is a certified corrective exercise specialist. He is the founder of Mind Body Pro (, a personal training and wellness-coaching company in New York City. He can be reached at

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