Dumbbell Side Lunge

How to: Dumbbell Side Lunge

Primary Muscles Used:Legs


Trainer:Chontel Duncan

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height with elbows bent and plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Keeping your right foot on the floor, release your left foot and take a big step to your left, holding the dumbbells between your legs. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend your left knee, ensuring that your right leg remains straight.
  3. Exhale. Extend your left knee and transfer your weight onto your right foot. Step your left foot inwards to return to the starting position.
  4. Inhale. Keeping your left foot on the floor, release your right foot and take a big step to your right holding the dumbbells between your legs. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend your right knee, ensuring that your left leg remains straight.
  5. Exhale. Extend your right knee and transfer your weight onto your left foot. Step your right foot inwards to return to the starting position. Continue alternating between left and right for the specified number of repetitions.

32 Lunge Variations to Keep Things Interesting (and Seriously Intense)

16. Woodchop lunge

Turn a regular lunge into a total-body torcher by adding a weighted upper-body movement to the mix.

Grab a dumbbell with both hands and hold it above your left shoulder, close to your ear. Assume the regular lunge starting stance.

As you lunge forward with right leg, pull the weight down diagonally across your body — the weight should end up next to right hip. Reverse the movement and repeat on the other side.

17. Lunge with biceps curl

Work your upper body and lower body simultaneously with this two-in-one move.

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lunge forward with right leg.

Once your knee is at about a 90-degree angle, curl the weights, then lower them back down. Return to standing and repeat on the other side.

Talk about a great two-for-one!

18. Walking dumbbell lunge

Walk your way to an even fitter, stronger physique.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand as you make your way forward in a walking lunge.

Tip: You can also use a barbell for this move. Rest the bar across your upper back, engage your core, and perform a walking lunge as usual.

19. Dumbbell reverse lunge

It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Complete a reverse lunge movement (No. 4) while holding a dumbbell in each hand. To help yourself balance, engage your core and step back slowly until you get a rhythm going.

20. Reverse lunge and press

This move will not only challenge your lower half but also sculpt some seriously strong shoulders.

Stand as you would to perform a regular reverse lunge (No. 4), but hold a dumbbell in each hand a few inches above your shoulders, palms facing forward.

Step back with left leg and then reverse the movement, as usual. However, instead of returning to standing, draw left leg up in front of you to hip level. As you do so, press the weights up overhead. Return to standing. Repeat on the other leg.

21. Dumbbell lateral lunge

Want to make a lateral lunge (No. 6) even more challenging? Bring on the weights!

Grab a dumbbell in each hand and perform the movement. Keep back straight and lean torso forward so that the dumbbells end up at about shin level.

22. Lateral lunge to curtsy lunge with overhead press

Hold a dumbbell in right hand. As you lunge to the left, keep chest high and back straight, then lower torso forward until the weight is a few inches above the floor.

Return to standing and move into the curtsy lunge (No. 8), stepping back with left leg and pressing the dumbbell up over your head. Return to starting position.

23. One-legged lunge with lift

Amp up the regular lateral lunge (No. 6) with this move.

Grab a dumbbell in each hand, with palms facing one another. Perform a lateral lunge on left leg while leaning torso slightly forward until the weights are at about knee level.

As you straighten left leg, lift right leg off the floor and out to the side until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Lower right leg back into the lateral lunge, then return to standing. Repeat on the other side.

24. Diagonal dumbbell lunge

For improved stability and stronger quads and hamstrings, move at a diagonal. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand with feet hip-width apart.

Just as you would in a traditional lunge, take a large step forward with right leg, but instead of moving in a straight line, step out on a diagonal. Bend both knees until right knee forms a 90-degree angle. Return to standing. Repeat on the other side.

25. Lateral raise lunge

Another shoulder-sculptor, this exercise builds on the basic lunge movement.

Grab a dumbbell in each hand and hold them at your sides, palms facing in toward your body.

As you lower into a lunge, raise arms to the sides — it’ll look like you’re forming a T with your upper body. Lower the weights as you return to standing.

26. Overhead lunge

To challenge your core and build shoulder strength, add this move to your routine.

Grab a dumbbell in each hand and raise arms overhead, with palms facing one another.

Lunge forward with right leg, then bring left leg forward to meet right. Lunge forward with left leg, then bring right leg forward to meet left. Continue alternating, keeping the weights up throughout the movement.

Step 1

Starting Position: Stand with your feet parallel facing forward and hip-width apart. Position your hands where comfortable to help you maintain your balance during the exercise. Stiffen your torso by contracting your core and abdominal muscles (“bracing”). Keep your head facing slightly upwards and shift your weight onto your heels.

Step 2

Inhale and gently unload your right leg, slowly stepping to the right while keeping your weight over your heels and both feet facing forward. Once your right foot is firmly placed on the floor, bend at the hips, pushing them backwards while simultaneously shifting your weight towards the right foot. Continue shifting your weight over the right foot until your tibia (shinbone) is vertical to the floor and your right knee is aligned directly over the second toe of your right foot. Your left leg should be near, or at full extension at the knee and your body weight should still be distributed into the right hip. The heels of both feet should stay flat on the floor. Keep your left foot flat on the floor as you allow your weight to shift into your right hip and alternate. Feel free to position your arms where necessary to help maintain your balance, reaching for your right foot with your left hand will emphasize hip flexion (alternate with the right hand reaching for the left foot).

Step 3

Exhale and push off firmly with your right leg, returning your body to your starting position. Repeat the movement for the opposite side.

A common mistake when performing a side lunge is that individuals often step too wide and are unable to align the tibia (shinbone) over the placed foot and the knee falls inside the foot. In this case, simply shorten the width of the step taken to allow you to align the tibia over the placed foot.


How To Do The Side Lunge

Photograph: Glen Burrows

The lunge, and indeed the reverse lunge, are fantastic lower-body exercises, but they have one serious flaw – they only require you to move forwards and backwards. That’s a problem since sometimes you’re required to move sideways, because life doesn’t always come at you head on.

As well as enlisting a couple of extra muscles on your inner and outer thighs that the forwards-and-backwards lunges can’t reach, the side lunge, or lateral lunge, will also improve sports performance – you’ll be jinking around defenders like Lionel Messi and leaping to make astonishing diving catches like Jonty Rhodes in no time. (We’ll concede the former South African cricketer is not quite as famous as Lionel Messi, but hot damn was he one hell of a fielder. The man must have been side lunging 24/7.)

The main muscles worked by the side lunge are the quads and glutes, as is the case with the standard and reverse lunge, but the extra focus on the inner and outer thighs means it’s an exercise you should have in your repertoire even if you have no intention of playing sports because it will contribute to the functional strength of your lower body.

Start by standing tall with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Your back should be straight and your weight on your heels. Take a big step to the side and, ensuring you keep your torso as upright as possible, lower until the knee of your leading leg is bent at around 90°, keeping your trailing leg straight. Push back up and return to the starting position.

The most common form issue with a side lunge is to collapse over the straight knee. Focus on bending and lowering from the hips, with your back straight and core engaged, as with a squat. Also make sure you’re keeping the heels of both feet on the floor as you lower.

You can do several side lunges on one leg then switch sides, or alternate legs. Shoot for 20 side lunges on each leg in total, or build them into a timed circuits routine.

Side Lunge Variations

Dumbbell side lunge

Once you’re comfortable with the movement, the best way to increase the difficulty of the side lunge is to hold a dumbbell in each hand. Keep the dumbbells in front of you, with your palms facing your body and your arms hanging straight as you move, but don’t let them pull your torso down and out of position while lunging. That is unless you are performing the side lunge and touch, which is a further progression of the exercise. In this variation, once you’ve stepping into a side lunge you bend forwards at the hips and lower the dumbbells to the floor by your leading leg, keeping your back straight.

Leaping side lunge

Adding a leap between lunges ramps up the cardio benefits of the exercise and also increases the demands of maintaining good form throughout the movement, so your core strength should benefit all the more.

Stand with your feet together. Take a large step out to the right and squat on that side with your bodyweight over your right knee, which should be bent at a 90° angle, while your left leg is straight. So far, you’ve just followed the standard side lunge technique, but from here it gets funky. Instead of simply stepping your right foot back into the middle, you leap, moving your right leg back and then straightening it as you lunge out over your left side, aiming to land softly and move smoothly throughout.

Transverse lunge

This hip-opening side lunge variation will prepare your body for the sudden twists and turns involved in sports like football, so your body doesn’t seize up when you’re trying to tackle a tricky winger.

Stand with your feet together. You can hold dumbbells by your sides to make the exercise tougher. Take a big step to one side and turn the leading foot so it is at a right angle to your standing foot, twisting around so your chest is facing sideways from your original position. Lower until the knee on your leading leg is bent at around 90°, keeping the trailing leg straight, then push back up.

Cable side lunge

One of the great benefits of the cable machine is that it can provide sideways resistance for your side lunges, which dumbbells and other free weights can’t. Stand side-on to a low cable, holding the attachment in both hands by your hips. Take a big step towards the machine to lower the weight, then push back up to standing.

Working out while listening to an audiobook, squeezing in your workout during your commute by biking there—gotta love anything that kills two birds with one stone. Add side lunges to that list: “What makes side lunges so good is that the more you practice them, the stronger and more mobile you will be,” says New York-based trainer Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S., founding instructor at MIRROR. In other words, they’ll help you say hello to stronger glutes, and goodbye to tight AF hips.

How To Do A Side Lunge

How to: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed straight forward. Step out with your right foot as wide as possible. Engage through the right heel as you drop your hips down and back while keeping the left leg straight, stretching the groin on the left leg and keeping both soles of the feet on the ground and toes pointed straight forward. Make sure your right knee is tracking over your right foot the whole motion. Powerfully “punch” your right heel into the floor to push yourself back to the full standing start position. That’s one rep.

Form note: Make sure you’re sitting down and back, like in a basic squat rather than hinging at the hips. Also, plant your foot firmly on the ground at full extension, and keep your toes pointed forward throughout the whole move.

Reps/sets you should do to see results: Complete 8 to 12 reps on the right side, then repeat on the left side. Do 3 to 4 sets.

Benefits Of Side Lunges

Tightness in the groin, hip, and ankle can make this move challenging. But the more you do side lunges, the more you’ll ditch those issues, Ryan says. The move will open up tight hips and groin, while strengthening the inner thigh and glutes.

Make The Side Lunge Part Of Your Workout

“Side lunges are like avocado: good by themselves, but even better when paired with something fun and slightly spicy,” Ryan says. Incorporate the side lunge into your warm-up, or as part of any strength or HIIT workout. In a workout, side lunges pair well with any strength move—squats and reverse lunges on lower-body day, or as a complement to upper-body exercises for a total-body strength day.

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“With any dynamic movement like side lunge, master the basic body weight movement first to work on a strong form, then worry about adding a load later,” Ryan says.

More advanced variations on side lunges: Once you’ve perfected your form without weights, add a kettlebell or dumbbell—which will also turn the move into a core toner, Ryan suggests. Or add a pulse, where you stay in the bottom of the side lunge, and slowly move an inch up and down. You’ll tone your glutes even more, and still score that full range of motion that will help decrease tightness in your hips.

Ryan recommends adding this move to your routine two to three times a week, “to make sure you stay loose, strong, and toned while avoiding overuse injuries.”

Rachael Schultz Rachael Schultz is a freelance writer with years of experience covering health, nutrition, and physiology.

How To Do A Side Lunge

The side lunge is an effective lower body exercise that strengthens your quads, glutes and hamstrings while also targeting both the inner and outer thighs. By moving in a side-to-side motion rather than the traditional lunge motion of forward and back, you recruit your thigh muscles and also work on your balance and stability. This is a great exercise to add into your workouts to tone your lower body, improve your balance, and get leaner legs.

Use the links below to quickly navigate this guide:

  • How To Do Side Lunges
  • The Benefits Of Side Lunges
  • What Muscles Do Side Lunges Work?
  • How Many Calories Do Side Lunges Burn?
  • Incorporating Side Lunges Into Your Workout
  • Other Exercises Similar To Side Lunges

How To Do Side Lunges

  1. Start standing with legs slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart and toes pointed forward.
  2. Shift your body weight to one leg bending the knee until it reaches a 90-degree angle and the other leg is straight. Glutes are pressing back behind you. Return to center and switch sides.

There are many reasons you should incorporate side lunges into your workouts. Here are just a few:

Work Your Outer Thighs

There are so many leg exercises available including dozens of different types of squats and just as many lunges. Side lunges are unique in the way they tone and shape your outer thighs, or abductors. Many people become frustrated with their outer thighs when it seems nothing works to eliminate those extra pockets of fat, or “saddlebags.” Side lunges will help decrease the appearance of saddlebags because they activate those outer thigh muscles directly.

Work Your Glutes

Although you are lunging sideways, the weight of your body is sitting back into your glutes. Side lunges help tone and shape your booty and give you a nice, strong and shapely backside. No saggy, flat butts here!

Get Your Heart Pumping

The side-to-side motion of the side lunge gets your moving and your heart pumping. You’ll reap the cardio benefits of side lunges, especially if you add extra weights or resistance. Time for a calorie burn? Side lunges do the trick.

Improves Balance And Stability

Since you are moving your body in a side-to-side motion rather than the traditional forward and back, you add muscle balance around the hip and knee joints, which helps you prevent possible future injuries. In addition to preventing future injuries, this is a back friendly exercise because this lower body workout requires you to keep your back straight and your chest lifted.

What Muscles Do Side Lunges Work?

Side Lunges work your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. While traditional lunges also work these same muscles, a side lunge gives the bonus of tackling both your outer and inner thighs, also known as abductor and adductors. So if you are looking to tone your legs, this is a great move for you. In combination with some cardio and good, clean eating, side lunges can help you create lean and toned thighs.

How Many Calories Do Side Lunges Burn?

Side Lunges, along with other most other exercises, will generally burn about 100 calories for every 10 minutes you are working. Just keep your intensity up and make sure you are breathing through your mouth.

Incorporating Side Lunges Into Your Workouts

Side Lunges are amazing exercises on their own, but they are even more effective when you incorporate them into other workouts. Here are some ideas to make that happen.

Use Side Lunges In Your Warm-Up

Side lunges are a great low-impact exercise that help you warm up for any workout. They help to:

  • Move you through a big range of motion to lubricate the joints and prepare your legs for work
  • Get your heart-rate up which helps prepare your body for your workout
  • Warm-up the muscles in your glutes, hamstrings quads and inner thighs

Side Lunge Warm-Ups:

Warm-Up Idea #1: 10 Side Lunges (5 per side), 10 squats, 10 mummy kicks, 10 hip circles

Warm-Up #2: 30 seconds jumprope, 30 seconds butt-kicks, 30 seconds side lunges, 30 seconds, mountain climbers

Warm-Up #3: 20 mountain climbers, 10 side lunges, 5 push-ups, 10 jumping jacks

Use Side Lunges In Your Circuit Training

Side lunges are a great exercise to incorporate in your circuit training because they’re bodyweight-only, making it simple to transition to them from other exercises quickly. Here are a few ways to use side lunges in your circuit training:

10-Minute Circuit Training Workout

Move directly from one exercise to the next with no break. Rest for 1 minute, then repeat the sequence 2 more times.

  • 30 seconds side lunges
  • 30 seconds high knee run
  • 30 seconds push ups
  • 30 seconds burpees

Rest 1 minute. Repeat 2 more times. Stretch.

Use Side Lunges in Your Leg Workout

Side lunges are a must-have move in any leg workout. Here’s a fun leg workout you can do that incorporates side lunges as well as some other leg-toning moves:

Leaner Leg Workout

  • 10 Side Lunges
  • 10 skaters
  • 10 squats
  • 10 squat jumps
  • 10 forward lunges
  • 10 split jumps
  • 1 minute jumprope with no rope

Repeat this cycle 3 times. Combined with weekly cardio and clean eating, this leg workout will help you get lean and toned legs in no time!

Here are 3 more workouts for you to try that include side lunge:

  • 7 Squat and Lunge Variations for Toned Legs
  • 20-Minute No Gym Workout
  • 30 Minute Total Body Tone Up

Other Exercises Similar to Side Lunges

If you like the idea of shaping and sculpting your thighs, here are a few more exercises you’ll want to try:

  • How To Do A Plie Squat
  • How To Do Resistance Band Side to Side Squat
    How To Do Stability Ball Side Leg Lift

Once you have mastered the side lunge with your body weight, add dumbbells for more challenging exercises or check out these squat and lunge variations for even more fun exercises.

Targets: glutes, thighs, hamstrings

Primary muscles: Glutes, quads, inner thighs
Secondary muscles: Hamstrings
Equipment: No equipment


1. Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
2. Step out to the side and transfer your weight to that leg.
3. Use your lead foot to push you back to the starting position.
4. Repeat and then switch sides.


When doing the side lunge, pull your abs in, keep your back straight and face forward. Don’t step too wide to the side, breathe in and keep your knees pointing in the same direction as your feet. Keep both heels flat on the floor and, as you breathe out, use the lead foot to push you back into the starting position.


The side lunge adds a lateral movement that is often neglected in more traditional lower body exercises, such as squats and forward or backward lunges. This lateral movement targets the inner and outer thighs and helps to strengthen and tone those areas of your legs. This is also an excellent move to strengthen your quads, hamstrings and glutes, which makes the side lunge a very complete lower body exercise.



You can start with just 1 set of 10 to 15 reps and add to the number of sets and reps over time, until you’re able to complete 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps on each side. Increase the challenge by holding a set of dumbbells, and work your upper body at the same time.


To calculate the number of calories burned doing the side lunge, enter your weight and the duration of the exercise:

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Try these other lower body exercises to strengthen, sculpt and tone your thighs, hips, legs and glutes:
Donkey kicks
Split squat
Glute bridge

The secret of side lunges and lunges

Lunge, in all its variations, is a lower-body resistance exercise that activates several muscle groups at once. If you never skip a leg day (and we suggest you don’t), you must have used lunges at least once in your workout.

Would you like to know more about one of the most used lower-body exercises? Keep reading to find out what muscles lunges work, what are the benefits of lunges, and how to add weight to your lunges.

What muscles do lunges and side lunges work?

Lunges are a useful addition to your routine. Especially side lunges, as they involve a side-to-side movement that is not present in classic lunges or squats. Therefore, side lunges are great to complement squats and regular lunges on your leg day.

Lunges and side lunges work a couple of muscle groups:
Glutes – they work gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. In your leading leg, glutes do the majority of work, so make sure to do the same number of repetitions on each side.

  • Hamstrings – biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus make up your hamstrings. They help you control descent into the lunge position and return into the standing position.

  • Quadriceps – the muscle in your thigh that is responsible for aiding the lowering into the lunge and extending the knee when returning to the standing position.

  • Abductors – on your leading leg, abductors work to control your knee and hip movement, while those on your trailing leg get a good stretch.

Side lunges with weights

Side lunges are a great exercise if you are looking to add weight in your routine. By adding weight to side lunges, they become addition or replacement for squats in your routine.

Side lunges with weight are more demanding, more intense, and harder to perform. This has several great effects:

  • Bigger muscle gain

  • Bigger calorie expenditure

  • Developing bigger muscle strength

  • Better joint stabilization

Benefits of side lunges

Lunges are functional movement. They involve the movement of the hip joint and muscles in a different plane of motion than squats do. This means that practicing variations of lunges will help you work muscles in ways that benefit your everyday movements.

As lunges are a unilateral movement, they are more demanding for your balance. By doing the lunges you increase your joint stability as you recruit smaller muscles around the hip joint that are responsible for keeping your joint stable. Also, if you enjoy sports that require lunging movements, such as tennis or basketball, practicing lunges can benefit your performance.

Lunges or squats?

Which exercise you will choose depends on the muscles you want to put to work. Both exercises do their job and should be a part of your routine.

However, as discussed in the previous Madbarz blog, lunges are more effective when it comes to activating your glutes. While squats activate only gluteus maximus, lunges activate gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

Are you looking for more lower-body exercises or full-body programs? Madbarz Premium brings you 20+ workout plans, created by professionals, tailored for your needs. Get your Madbarz Premium today and build yourself a warrior body.

Side to side lunges

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