Dumbbell Side Squats Are the Lower-Body Burner Your Leg Day Needs

Squats. Lunges. Deadlifts. Those three exercises form the basis of any good leg day workout. And for good reason! They're foundational movements that build lower-body strength. But you can only do so many reps of a single exercise before you get bored. In order to keep from plateauing, swap in dumbbell side squats.

Sides squats — aka lateral lunges — target your legs in a way traditional squats don't.
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Benefits of Dumbbell Side Squats

Along with strengthening your lower body as a part of your workout, squats help you move through everyday activities, making them extremely functional. Picking up something from the floor, lifting heavy boxes and even sitting in a chair all require movements that are executed when performing squats.

Side squats, or side lunges as they're also called, allow you to target your inner and outer thighs more than regular squats. Plus, since so many standard exercises have you moving in a forward and back or up and down direction, side squats give you the chance to switch things up and move laterally. And when you add dumbbells, you're upping resistance and strength-building benefits.

Read more: 8 Unilateral Exercises to Challenge Your Balance

How to Do Dumbbell Side Squats

Make sure you use proper form when doing dumbbell side squats.
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  1. Stand with your feet together, abs engaged and your back straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and relax your arms by your sides.
  2. Step your right foot out to the right about two to three feet. Bend your right knee and lower your butt toward the floor into a squat position, while keeping your left leg straight. Your hands, with the dumbbells, should be on either side of your right foot.
  3. Press through your right foot to return to the starting position.

Read more: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try

Tips for Better Dumbbell Side Squat Form

Check your form. Your right knee should be in line with your right foot but not extending past your toes. Keep your back straight, with shoulders pressing down, while your torso leans slightly toward your right foot. Engage your abs from start to finish to keep you stabilized.

Progress slowly. If you're new to strength training, start with the body-weight version (no dumbbells) first. Once you've mastered the form, add weights that feel challenging but doable. Avoid using weights that are too heavy to allow you to complete the exercise with proper form.

Shorten your step. A lot of times, people take too wide of a step out to the side, according to the American Council on Exercise. This can put undue pressure on your knee (not to mention it's not as effective). To fix this, make sure your tibia (shin bone) lines up straight over your ankle and below your knee.

Try This Ultimate Side Squat Variation

But even side squats can get repetitive. When that happens, you can do around-the-clock split squats.

  1. Take a step forward with your right leg for a standard split squat (front lunge).
  2. Step out to the right side for a right side squat.
  3. Step behind you with your right food for a reverse split squat.
  4. Step out to the left side with your left food for a left side squat.
  5. Take a step forward with your left leg for another split squat.

Or if you're really looking to up the challenge factor, have a partner call out a random lunge direction. Whatever they say (front, back, right, left or anything in between), you have to do!

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