Side Lunge With Dumbbells Exercise Guide – How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

side lunge with dumbbells

Side lunges activate your adductors more and improve stability and balance. 

Lunges, a staple bodyweight exercise, effectively engage the lower body, targeting muscles similarly to squats but with the added advantage of unilateral training. Research indicates that lunges provide a slight advantage in activating and sculpting the gluteus maximus compared to back squats (1).

The side lunge with dumbbells is a superior variation for enhancing lower body strength. Unlike the traditional lunge, which requires no equipment and forward movement, this advanced version introduces weights and lateral movement, offering a fresh challenge and variety to your gym routine.

This article explores the side lunge with dumbbells in depth, highlighting the targeted muscle groups and the benefits it offers athletes. It also provides a detailed, step-by-step guide to executing this unilateral exercise with proper form. Additionally, the guide suggests other effective exercises for developing similar muscle groups, helping you maximize your training efficiency.

Techniques & Muscles Worked

The side lunge with dumbbells is a weight-training exercise that targets your glutes, hamstrings, quads, adductors, and calves. It also strengthens your hip and knee joints with constant flexion and extension. Additionally, this exercise recruits core muscles like the abs and obliques, which help stabilize during this exercise.

Using dumbbells for this exercise provides the additional resistance you need for increased strength and muscle gains. However, you can use other free weights like kettlebells and barbells. Resistance bands are also suitable to add extra gains during this workout, but ensure you don’t compromise your form. Below is a step-by-step guide highlighting how to do the side lunge using dumbbells.

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells with each hand using a neutral grip. Place them at your sides, with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your back straight, pull your shoulders back, and brace your core. This is your starting position.
  3. Take a deep breath and then take a big step with your right foot to the right side, holding the dumbbells between your legs while your left remains stationary.
  4. Immediately bend your right knee, lowering your hips and body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor (assuming a lunge position). Make sure to angle your left leg fully in this position.
  5. Return to the starting position by extending your knees and hips.
  6. Repeat this movement with your left side and then return to the starting position to finish one rep.
  7. Repeat this movement for as many reps as you desire. 


The side lunge using dumbbells is a compound movement that targets the lower body, improving stability, strength, and mobility. It’s an effective strength training workout. Below, we analyze this exercise and its other benefits.

Builds & Strengthens the Adductors

Due to their lateral movement, side lunges with dumbbells target the adductors more than standard lunges. This helps with better explosive power and increases your ability to lift heavy items. Building your lower body with this routine can also improve your strength and form for many other exercises.

Fixes Muscle Imbalances

The unilateral nature of this exercise allows you to train each part individually. This can help address any muscle imbalance you have between your sides. It can also improve your mind-muscle connection and help you attend to specific muscle groups. Those with injuries could also find this helpful exercise, as it can allow you to go easier on your injured side while still being able to train it.

Strengthens the Core

To do a side lunge with dumbbells, you’ll require a lot of form and stability. This activates your core and places constant tension on it for balance, which can increase strength there. Stronger core muscles help reduce your chances of injuries and can improve form by promoting equal load distribution throughout the body.

Better Joint Mobility & Movement

The side lunge using dumbbells equally strengthens the hip and knee joints. Their constant flexion and extension help increase their range of motion, improving mobility.

Side Lunge With Dumbbells Alternatives

The side lunge with dumbbells is an advanced variation of the traditional lunge, which makes it effective for building lower body muscles. However, experts have advised mixing other exercises that build similar muscle groups to avoid a training plateau. Here are some excellent alternatives to the side lunge with dumbbells.

The Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is a variation that also targets the lower body and posterior chain (2). It recruits other secondary muscles like the hamstrings, adductors, and calves. Like the side lunge with dumbbells, this exercise is unilateral, and using a sturdy box or bench increases your range of motion.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is another unilateral exercise that targets similar muscles to the side lunge with dumbbells. It requires a lot of stability and balance and can be done with free weights like dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells. This exercise also improves joint mobility and function.

45-Degree Leg Press

The 45-degree leg press uses a leg press machine and is effective for building lower body muscles. Setting the leg press machine at a 45-degree angle increases strength and muscle gains in your hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves, and adductors. So, if you’re looking for a machine alternative with better stability, this is a great exercise to choose.


How to do a side lunge with dumbbells?

To do a side lunge with dumbbells, you need dumbbells and space to move side to side. Grab these dumbbells with each hand using a neutral grip, place them at your sides with your feet hip-width apart, and then do your side lunge as normal. The exercise guide above details how to do this exercise correctly.

Are dumbbell side lunges good?

Yes, dumbbell side lunges are good for developing lower body muscles. They also improve the body’s stability and increase joint mobility. The added resistance in this routine also helps with muscle growth

What muscle does dumbbell side lunge target?

The side lunge with dumbbells is a weight-training exercise that targets your glutes, hamstrings, quads, adductors, and calves. It also strengthens your knee and hip joints. Please check the guide above for a more expansive look at the muscles this routine works.

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more exercise guides! 


  1. Aniceto, R. R., Pirauá, A. L. T., Da Silva Leandro, L., Da Silva, H. C. F., Silva, D. M., De Araújo, L. C., . . . Santos, H. H. D. (2021). Lunges activate the gluteus maximus muscles more than back squats when both exercises are standardized. Isokinetics and Exercise Science, 29(4), 353–359.
  2. Mackey, E. R., & Riemann, B. L. (2021). Biomechanical Differences Between the Bulgarian Split-Squat and Back Squat. International journal of exercise science, 14(1), 533–543.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.