5 Lateral Exercises To Add To Your Next Workout

Lateral lunges with dumbbells are a great lower-body workout.

Popular wisdom tells you to keep moving forward—but that advice shouldn’t apply to your workout. “People should do exercises that work their body in all directions,” says Ashley Borden, a celebrity fitness trainer in Los Angeles, CA who’s worked with Mandy Moore, Reese Witherspoon, and Ryan Gosling.

Trainers divide movement patterns into three groups: sagittal (forward or backward), frontal (side-to-side), and transverse (rotational). To build a balanced body, she says, you need to perform a balance of different exercises. This rule of thumb doesn’t just apply to weight lifters, either: Runners and cyclists should also include lateral exercises in their strength training routines at least twice a week. Here are six side-to-side exercises to add to your routine. Try to do 10 reps of each move on your right and left before going on to the next. Because, sometimes, a lateral move really is a step in the right direction.

Dumbbell Lateral Lunges

The dumbbell lateral lunge is a two-part movement that target the hamstrings and glutes.

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your core braced and your feet hip-width apart. 2. Take one step to the right, lowering your right knee until it forms a 90-degree angle to the floor, and the dumbbells are near your right ankle.
  2. Push up with your right foot and return to the starting position. Repeat on the left side for 1 rep.

Lateral Dumbbell Step-Ups

A box provides a great base for dumbbell step-ups.

  1. Holding a pair of dumbbells at your side, stand with a sturdy box or low bench on your right, facing forward with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Step your right foot onto the bench, pushing through your heel and raising your left leg.  
  3. While slowly bending your right knee, lower your left leg until your foot is firmly planted on the floor.
  4. Bring your right foot to the floor to return to the starting position. Repeat on the left side.

Dumbbell Lateral RaisesDumbbell lateral raises are an easy way to tone your upper body.

  1. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Keeping your chest up and your shoulders still, slowly raise your hands out to the side until your arms and torso form a ‘T.’ Maintain a slight bend in your elbows.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Lateral Bear Crawl

Embrace the lateral movement of the full-body bearcrawl.

  1. Lower yourself into a pushup position, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders, and your chin tucked toward your chest.
  2. Bring your knees forward until they form a 90-degree angle with your hips. That’s the starting position.
  3. Shuffle your right hand and right leg to the side, followed by the left hand and left leg, as you move to the right. Then, switch directions, heading back to the left.

Modified Side Plank with Leg RaiseModifications are a great way to work on balance and strengthen.

  1. Lie on your right side with your right elbow propped beneath your shoulder and your right hand resting on the ground.  
  2. Stack your left heel on top of your right heel and lift your hips off the floor. (Your body should form a straight line from your left shoulder to your left heel.) That’s the starting position.
  3. Keeping your core braced, slowly raise your left leg up until it’s parallel with your hip. Lower it back down to meet your right leg. Repeat on the other side.


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