Tutorial: Side Lunges (+ Video!)

side lunge tutorial 12 Minute Athlete

One of the exercises we do pretty often in 12 Minute Athlete workouts is the side lunge.

Side lunges, also known as lateral lunges, are one of my favorite bodyweight leg exercises of all time. And though they may seem pretty simple at first, they’re actually pretty difficult for a lot of people because they require a lot of leg strength as well as flexibility and balance in order to do them properly.

In fact, if you would have asked me to do a side lunge a few years ago before I got interested in fitness, I would have shown you a pretty awkward, very ineffective exercise. At the time, I lacked the strength and flexibility to do even one of these.

But side lunges pack so many awesome benefits they’re worth working on:

  • They help build leg strength using zero equipment
  • They’re a great way to prep for pistols because they work on both flexibility and balance
  • They force you to work in a different range of motion, which is great for mobility and long-term joint health

How to do them:

Watch the short video tutorial below to learn how to them:

Or, if you’re not a video person, here are instructions in written form:

Step #1: Take a wide step to either side. The longer your legs are, the wider you’ll have to go (it’ll feel a little ridiculous). As you can see, I have to go pretty wide with this one. land softly, and lower under control. The non-working leg should be straight, and your toes should be pointed slightly outward.

Step #2: Descend down as far as you comfortably can on one leg. Your non-working leg should remain straight. Eventually, your goal should be to touch the back of your leg to your calf muscle.

Step #3: Drive back to the starting position by driving through the foot of the working leg. Try and focus on pushing through your heel and the balls of your feet as you do this, and make sure your knee doesn’t go all wobbly.

You can do them alternating, or do all of the reps on one leg before doing them on the other.

How to make them easier (or harder!)

If you’re having trouble staying balanced, or if you just need a little extra strength boost, hold on to something (a bar, chair, or even a wall works) while you do them. This will help familiarize you with the movement as well as help you build the strength, flexibility, and balance needed to do the full version of this exercise.

As the exercise becomes easier for you, you can always make it more challenging by adding weight like a sandbag or holding some dumbbells while you do them.

Do enough of them and you’ll definitely feel it the next day!

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8 thoughts on “Tutorial: Side Lunges (+ Video!)”

  1. AAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhh! For so long I was doing this wrong- I was actually taking a step to each side, starting out with my legs together. I am very long legged and was falling all over the place trying to do these. Thank you so much for this video. Finally I can do these without looking like a spaz!

  2. This is very helpful. I have a question.

    If I’m doing a workout that says,
    (Side Lunges – 15)
    Then in the instructions it says,
    (Repeat the exercise 10-15 times for a set)
    How many side lunges do I have to do total?

    • Not sure where you saw it, but I’m guessing it means that side lunge left + side lunge right counts as one rep. You have to do 15 of them.


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