lateral squat exercise

Lateral Squat Exercise: How to (Video), Muscles Worked & Variations

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There are two ways you can perform squats. One, by using any of these squat machines and two, by using your own body weight.

Squats without machine come with many variations, and for this article, we’ll discuss the lateral squat, what it is, how to do it, benefits, variations, and more.

What Is a Lateral Squat?

First, what do you do on leg day? Before, I never really understood the importance of warming up. Don’t give me that look. Most beginners go straight to the machine and pay the price after training.

lateral squat

After learning the importance of prepping, I still did it all wrong. I would do traditional squats, and that was it. It was by watching the pros at the gym and asking around that I learned about the lateral squat.

Lateral squats are a variation of the traditional squat. Unlike the traditional squats that work various muscles, this exercise isolates legs muscles and works them better than a traditional squat.

Step by Step: How to Do a Lateral Squat

Whether you’re looking for a good prepping exercise or a squat variation that tones your inner thighs, you’ll love the lateral squat. Before we get to the variations, you need to master the basic lateral squat. Let the following steps guide you in getting the most out of this exercise.

Steps    Activity
Step #1 Stand up straight with your legs apart at shoulder width. Then widen the gap between your feet by at least 5 inches on each side. It’s the same stance you’d take when doing plie squats.
Step #2 With your feet wide apart, turn your toes so they are pointing slightly outwards. Test a few angles until your find a comfortable foot position.
Step #3 Put your right foot forward so that the heel aligns with the left foot toes.
Step #4 Sink back to the right foot. Push right hip out. Your left foot should be straight and you’ll feel it pull back with your body to offer support. Hold the position for 2 seconds.
Step #5 Push back your body to an upright position using your hip.
Step #6 Switch to the left side and repeat the exercise. Once you get the hang of it, repeat the movement at a faster pace. We recommend 3 sets of 10 – 15 reps each.

Lateral squats are great for leg day. You can use them as a warming exercise before using a calf raise machine or your home gym. Or, you can also do several sets and call it a day.

What you want is to feel you’ve had a good workout. Now, what muscles does this squat variation work and how many calories does it burn?


Lateral Squat Muscles Worked

Like every exercise we’ve covered here, a lateral squat is designed to isolate specific muscles for better results. This exercise will work your

Adductor muscles

If you are a seasoned workout buff, you must have noticed there are two muscles that kind of drag their feet – the adductors and glutes.

When you shift your body to one side, you’ll feel the adductor muscle of the other foot stretch. That’s the muscles lengthening and contracting to provide stability. The more you do the lateral squats, the stronger your adductors become.


As a carryover benefit, a lateral squat will also work your glute muscle. As you lower down, you’ll feel your butt muscle contract.

This exercise mainly works the gluteus medius, or your butt’s middle muscle. This muscle helps in hip rotation, making it possible for you to walk, run, and do weight bearing exercises.


The quads always benefit from all types of squats. So, even when performing this squat variation, your quads will benefit greatly.

Also, lateral squats will recruit your calves and hamstrings, but be warned, it might not compare to other squat variations.

Who Is This Exercise For?

What I like about different exercise variations is that they are designed to target different groups of people because, honestly, we all have different fitness needs. The lateral squat is best for:


Running is one my go-to exercises when I need to clear my head. I run up to 3 miles a day. I find it interesting that that there are around 60 million people putting on their running shoes and hitting the trail or treadmill according to this statistics.

squats for runners

But what has running got to do with the lateral squat? You see, running works the quads, calves, and hamstring muscles.

The adductor muscles are left behind and with time they become tight, limiting your hip movement. This often results to muscle strain or injury. If you want to run even in your old age, you have to balance your workout.

Take time to grow and strengthen your adductor muscle for better movement when running.

Body builders

As we stated earlier, lateral squats recruit adductors and gluteus medius. As a body builder, you’ll want to develop hip power. Stretching the adductor muscle ensure your hips are stronger and move better.

Instagram stars

Yes, you read that right. Social media stars need to look the part. A saggy butt gets no views. If you want to increase hearts and views, tone your butt first and a lateral squat is a great way to get started. You can also incorporate plié squat for better results.

People with mobility issues

Mobility issues mostly start with the hips and lower back, and hips mostly fail to move in the desired form because of tight adductors. Lateral squats will help stretch out that area, bettering your mobility.

Lateral Squat Variations

Squats are the Matryoshka doll of the fitness world. You know that Russian doll that has more dolls hidden within it… yep, a squat is like that.

There are so many variations of squats and those variations have variations to them. I think the squat is the gift that keep giving, and the lateral squat variation has the following variations.

Lateral squats with dumbbell

The first variation is the lateral squat with dumbbell. You’ll need a pair of dumbbells or kettlebell for this exercise. For women we recommend 10 – 15 pound dumbbells and for men 15 – 20 pounds will be okay, but if you are a beginner, it’s okay to go with a lighter dumbbell.

How to do:

Steps    Activity
Step #1 Start with the dumbbells between your feet. Assume the basic lateral squat stance: feet apart, lower your body, and chest out.
Step #2 Pick a dumbbell on each hand. Your hands should move with your body.
Step #3 Repeat the exercise 2 – 3 sets. Check the video below.


Lateral squat jumps

A lateral squat jump is another variation of this exercise but slightly different from the other.

How to do:

Steps    Activity
Step #1 Start at a normal squat stance: feet wide apart (shoulder width) and arms up (kind of like doing boxing)
Step #2 Next jump at least 45 degrees from your current position then squat.

Do at least 2 sets with 10 – 12 reps for a good workout.


Lateral squat walk with resistance band

Resistance bands are an inexpensive way to add variation and resistance training to a routine. For a lateral squat walk with resistance band you want to start by placing the resistance band just above your knees.

Then widen your feet and sit back a little – a half squat stance. Then walk laterally in one direction. Make sure not to drop the resistance band. Then maintaining the stance, walk back to the other direction.

With this exercise you can walk as far as you want, but don’t do your 1000 steps with this exercise; that would be crazy.

Lateral squat with barbell

With barbell, you simply step under the rack, pick the barbell and place it across your upper back. Then move at least one foot away from the rack.

lateral squat exercise

Then assume normal lateral squat stance and begin your workout. Do the number of sets you had planned for the day. ­

Lateral split squat

The last variation we’ll look at is the lateral split squat. The movement used in this variation is similar to the basic variation. You only have to pause slightly longer when you push your body back to an upright position.

Final Thoughts

Want to tone your abductor, adductor, and glute muscles? Lateral squats are a great way to start. You can use this exercise as a warm-up exercise on leg day or before you run.

You can also add it to your full-body workout routine while traveling. So give it a try and let us know your experience below.