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Boost your workout with lateral movement

Increase strength and improve balance

Whether it’s walking, running, going up and down steps, biking or swimming, most of our movement is in one direction — forward. In fact, it may feel strange to move any other way.

However, experts say moving in different planes of motion, more specifically, laterally, can do wonders for your fitness level. “Side-to-side movements will make you stronger, improve your balance and prevent certain injuries,” says Dana Lemberg, benefit and wellness analyst at Wellmark.

Lateral moves benefit any age

“Moving laterally will keep you mobile as you age,” adds Lemberg. “That’s because you’ll be working the muscles on the inside and outside of your legs, which help stabilize your hips and pelvis, which improves your balance.”

Inevitably, you’ll move in a way that your body isn’t used to. For example, you might try a new dance move, maneuver to reach something in a tight space, or slip on a patch of ice. “Whatever that movement is, if that tissue is weak or tight, you’ll be more at risk for a pulled muscle, hip issues, such as osteoarthritis, or a fall that can cause a serious injury,” says Lemberg.

Lateral movements strengthen the body’s supporting muscles and tissues and prevent those sorts of injuries.

“No matter your age or fitness level, you will see improved performance and quality of life by strengthening those supporting muscles, according to Lemberg, “You’ll just be able to move faster and more confidently.”

It’s also important to add lateral movement into your exercise routine. “Muscles and ligaments may be tight at first. So make sure to warm up properly and go slow. These movements may take a little getting used to.”

Try these side-to-side strengtheners

Target your lower body from every angle possible (and get stronger all over as a result) by adding these side-to-side strengtheners to your warm-up routine or post-workout stretches, about twice a week.


side lunges lateral exercise

3 sets of 12 reps per leg

  • Start with legs slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart with toes pointed forward.
  • Take a large step, lowering into a lunge, until your knee reaches a 90-degree angle and the other leg is straight but not locked, both feet pointing forward. Sink hips and glutes behind you. Return to center and switch sides.

Side shuffles

side shuffles lateral movement

3 sets for about 20 yards per leg

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  • Hinge at the hips, knees bent, looking forward, chest lifted, and neutral spine.
  • Move right using small quick shuffle steps (start small and work your way up) then do the same movement to the left side.

Fire hydrants

fire hydrant lateral exercise

3 sets of 10 reps per leg

  • Start on your hands and knees, shoulders above your hands and your hips above your knees. Tighten your core and look down.
  • Lift your left leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Keep your knee at 90 degrees.
  • Lower your leg to starting position and repeat.

Be sure to talk to your personal doctor before you start a new exercise regimen.

Want some cardio with your lateral moves? Try jumping jacks, star jumps or speed skaters. Another option is to play tennis or pickleball. Both games require lateral moves and will get your blood pumping.