Of all the many squat variations, lateral squats are one of my favorites because they fire up your posterior chain (or the backside of your body), as well as your inner thighs. This makes them an ideal move to add to your leg days, especially, but also as part of your prep for pretty much any workout.
As a certified personal trainer, I'm going to teach you everything you need to know about lateral squats—benefits, techniques, variations, and more. Let's start with why you'd want to do them in the first place.
Benefits Of Lateral Squats
Lateral squats mainly target your gluteus medius—the part of your butt that makes side-to-side movements possible—as well as your quads and hip adductors (a.k.a. inner thighs).
But you're also recruiting your hamstrings and calves too. So, adding them to your routine will help you strengthen and sculpt your lower body from all angles.
How To Do Lateral Squats
- Start with your feet wider than your hips and your knees and toes pointing forward. (Slightly turning your feet out to 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock is okay too, if it feels more comfortable).
- Shift your weight into your right heel, push your hips back, and bend that knee while leaving your left leg straight. Try to get your thigh parallel to the floor. You can bring your arms in front of you as a counter balance or clasp them at your chest.
- Then, drive through your right foot to reverse the movement. Pause at the top to squeeze your glutes and stretch the front of your hips forward. That's one rep.
- Repeat on the other side.
Form tips: Don't let your knee cave in as you shift your weight to the side. Keep it tracking over the second and third toes of your bent leg, and always remember to brace your core!
Sets/reps for results: 10–12 reps on each side for 3 sets is perfect.
Variations On Lateral Squats
- Single-leg lateral squat: Standing with both feet wider than your hips, shift your weight to the right, sending your hips back as you bend the right leg. Lift your left leg off the ground and then stand up. Going from a lateral to single-leg squat will help you improve your balance while building strength.
- Lateral lunge: Instead of squatting as you shift your weight to one side, start standing tall with both feet together, then step out into a lateral squat with your right leg, knees and toes pointing forward. Drive through that heel to bring yourself back to your starting position. This move is more challenging for your core because it requires you to balance and stabilize during a dynamic movement.
- Weighted lateral squat: Looking to increase intensity? Add some weights to the exercise by holding a pair of dumbbells at your chest as you perform your reps.
How To Make Lateral Squats Part Of Your Workout Routine
Warm-up: I love to do a few sets of lateral squats before I dive into other lower-body movements to open my hips and prep my legs.
Active recovery: Doing this move in between heavy squats will give your legs the stretch and relief they need while still keeping those glutes engaged.
Superset: Say you're doing a dumbbell arm workout. If you really want to challenge yourself, hold onto your weights and alternate sets of lateral squats between upper-body exercises.
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