Gym goals can be broken down into two main categories: vanity and performance. Generally, the Gen Pop gym goer has vanity goals like more muscle, less fat, getting ripped, etc. What can they do to improve their game on the field? Although there is considerable overlap between the two, one exercise (of many) will help with both. If you guessed the side jump exercise, get your gold star on the way out. The lateral lunge for lifters in athletes and the general population is great because that’s where the gains are made, in the sagittal plane.
The sagittal plane divides the body into left and right halves (head to toe) and includes forward and backward movements. Your favorite exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench, and bicep curls are all Sagittal plane movements. The frontal plane then divides the body into front and middle and involves side-to-side movement. Exercises like side walks go up and that’s where side lunges live.
Doing lateral lunges can be a little awkward, but strength and conditioning coach Matthew S. Ibrahim, Ph.D. is here to explain why every athlete should incorporate them into their programming.
What is a Side Lunge?
The lateral lunge is a unilateral frontal plane exercise that consists of stepping sideways and dipping into a squat/lunge hybrid, turning this lunge into a mobility and strength exercise. Mobility as the supporting leg is straight which stretches and mobilizes the groin muscle. Strength is also needed in the working leg as the glutes, glutes, and quads work hard to get you off the incline and back to the starting position.
How to do the Side Lunge exercise
- Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and facing forward.
- Take a big step to the side with your right foot.
- Push back into the right hip, keeping the left leg straight.
- Feel the stretch in your left groin muscle as you sink into the incline
- When you’ve gone as far as your mobility allows, push your right leg off the floor and return to the starting position.
Benefits of lateral lunge for athletes
“The sport takes place in all directions, at different speeds, in challenging positions and sometimes at lower angles of the hips, knees and ankles. This is exactly why lower body training in the frontal plane is so important for athletes in all sports. By forgetting about the frontal plane, you’re missing out on a key component to truly excelling in sports: mastering all-around strength, speed, and power.
If your goal is to stay strong and durable in your sport, then training in the frontal plane is of great benefit to improving the health of your hip, knee and ankle joints. Most importantly, strengthening the muscles of the inner thighs (groin/joint) is another factor that keeps these joints durable.
Note: Sport takes place in all directions, especially in the frontal plane. That’s why lateral lunges are so important to training for athletic results.” explains Ibrahim.
To further reinforce Ibrahim’s point, strengthening and mobilizing the abductors plays a vital role in minimizing lateral movement of the knee joint, where the knee will be in a lot of trouble. As you brace the knee joint to resist lateral movement, you will also improve its stability in the sagittal plane.
Strengthening the adductors with exercises like side lunges will reduce groin strains. A 2015 review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that lack of excessive strength is a significant risk factor for groin strains.
Variations of The Side Lunge for Athletes
“The best way to describe the technique, form, and coaching cues for all variations of the lateral run is simple. sit with your hips behind you, bending one knee (your trunk leans in this direction) and keeping your other leg straight, control the landing. and ground contact, and then re-energize to a standing position.
Most importantly, we shouldn’t see any stuttering in your movement or choppy transitions. You want very smooth, controlled and athletic transitions from start to finish on each rep. The best athletes in the world are also the best movers. “Lateral jumps, which are dynamic in nature, are the most difficult type of lower body frontal plane exercise in terms of athletic development.” explains Ibrahim.
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