If you want to change up your workout routine, consider adding some lateral squats. The term “lateral” means “of, on, to or from the side or sides,” according to Oxford Languages. Lateral squats are a functional lower body exercise that targets the gluteus medius (side glutes) and inner thighs.
That said, lateral squats are a great way to use muscles that are rarely used in the gym, whether on the treadmill† stair climber or elliptical. Sometimes we get so comfortable with our normal workout routine that we forget to do it differently, but there’s no better time than now. The best thing about lateral squats? You don’t need a gym to do them. Your body weight is more than enough. To keep up to date with this cult-favorite exercise, we’ve enlisted a few expert trainers to explain how to do this exercise, common mistakes, benefits, and variations that you can practice on your next workout.
Looking for more training inspiration? We found the best abs exercises on youtube to try now as well as the best resistance band leg exercises to try, and the best exercises to do after sitting all day†
How to do lateral squats?
To do a lateral squat, start with your feet wider than your shoulders with your toes and knees pointing straight forward. Tighten your core and straighten your torso. To do this, think about lengthening your spine, proud chest and tummy squeeze to support a punch.
“Keeping most of your weight in your heel and balanced through the big toe, shift your weight to one foot (keep both feet in the ground). As you shift your weight to one side, rotate the hips back and lower the stock to the ground,” says Mallory Fry, Terraced house coach and certified exercise physiologist. “The other leg remains straight throughout this process. Once you’ve reached a comfortable depth (no deeper than the quad is parallel to the ground), drive through the weight-bearing heel, straighten the leg, and push yourself up to the starting position. Then you repeat on the other side of the body.”
Now that you know how to do side squats, it’s important to make sure you have proper form. No one knows shape better than Nikki Gnozzio and founder of Junction Body†
“Lateral squats should be done with the heels flat on the floor and good, strong back posture. If you can’t keep your heels low, you can add a heel wedge under the heel of the foot or a plate to raise the heel slightly ,” says Gnozzio.
If you feel like your back is arching forward, try anchoring a stick under your armpits with your arms around it to force you to stick your chest out and work on your form.
“Try to keep your knee over your foot as you go back and forth. Depending on how low you go, your knee may go over the toes. This usually happens around the 90˚ mark of the knee bend.
Common Form Mistakes During Lateral Squats
Proper form is essential to getting the most out of any exercise, including side squats. It’s normal for your form to be a little odd when it’s your first time, but here are some common mistakes made during lateral squats to watch out for.
“A common mistake I see is people shifting too much weight in the ball of the foot, lifting the heel off the ground and putting extra strain on the knee,” said Raphael Konforti, senior director of fitness at YouFit Gyms† “Forcing yourself to go lower than your flexibility puts the knees and lower back at risk.”
Konforti urges people to reset if necessary. If something doesn’t feel right, adjust your posture and angle.
What are the benefits of lateral squats?
But which muscles do you target when you squat laterally? “Lateral squats are great for training our ‘lateral systems’, which are usually neglected because most people prefer to move mainly forward and backward,” says Gnozzio. “It will help balance the body by being dominant in the front and back.”
In addition, Konforti says that lateral squats work the quadriceps, glutes, hamstring and core.
What are the different variations to try?
To get more out of a lateral squat, try different variations to work different muscle groups.
“Add a step between each rep so you complete all reps on the right, then work back to complete all reps on the left,” says Konforti. “You can also hold the weight in a different position to change the challenge of the exercise — try a light barbell on your back — hold a kettlebell at chest height, or hold two dumbbells next to you.”
For the more avid gym goers, Fry suggests adding an Olympic weightlifting bar if you have a spotter nearby.