women exercising laterally

Why You Should Be Doing Lateral Exercises

If you run or cycle you typically move your body forward, if you weight lift or swim you may occasionally move your body backward through reverse lunges or the backstroke, but very few exercises or sports require you to move your body side to side. 

This does not mean those motions are not valuable, but it does mean that you may want to put extra effort into moving your body in other directions. 

lateral movement

Why moving laterally matters

Moving laterally does not typically happen in our day to day lives. Between walking, driving, sitting at our computers, typically all movements are front to back and up and down. Here is exactly what lateral movement does for us:

It can help prevent injury and may help even out imbalances

Forward movements use the same dominant muscles – hamstrings, calves, and quads. Constantly using your dominant muscles causes them to become much stronger than your smaller muscles. Having one group of muscles stronger than another group causes an imbalance, which could lead to injury. Working with the muscles on the inside and outside of your leg, for example, helps stabilize your hips and pelvis. 

It can make you stronger

Exercising smaller stabilizer muscles are just as important as larger dominant muscles because it gets them ready for high performance. You need every leg muscle to destroy that 200-pound deadlift. 

Variety is the spice of life

We all know the feeling of dreading going to the gym because you are bored of the exercises you day after day. It is fun to switch up your routine from time to time. So next sweat session add a few lateral exercises to your routine to increase your exercise adherence. 

How to incorporate them into your routine

There are two ways to perform a lateral movement: abduction (moving a limb away from your body) and adduction (bringing it back in). These movements stabilize both your joints and dominant muscles.

These movements are especially important in the warm-up because you are preparing your body for any movement that may occur in the workout. Here are a few exercises to start with:

Side lunges: 3 sets of 12 reps per leg

Side shuffles: 3 sets of 20 yards per leg

Lateral bear crawls: 3 sets of 20 yards each way

Jumping jacks or star jumps: 3 sets of 30 seconds

Speed skaters: 3 sets of 10 reps per leg

Incorporate these into your regular workouts one to two times per week.