The traditional lunge is like a tennis match: back and forth, repeat.
Imagine a clock: The lunge usually means moving forward with one leg toward “12,” then back to “6.” You can break up the monotony by lunging to the side, at 3 for the right leg and 9 for the left leg.
But you can “literally lunge in any direction,” says trainer Cori Lefkowith of the Innovative Results gym in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Bringing that leg out to the side, at all points on the clock (or “lunge matrix,” if you want to impress your friends), and combining that move with a crossover “really works the hips in different ways,” Lefkowith says.
Lefkowith lunges to the side and a little back with the right leg, careful to keep her torso straight. Then she crosses the right leg over to the left side. Expanding on this variation, you could bring the right leg out to the right, to about 5 o’clock, then cross over to the left, to about 11 o’clock.
Moving only forward and backward does fire the glutes and quads. But in moving to the side, then crossing over, you’re also working the abductor muscles, or the outer hip.
“We want to train the body to move in different ways that are functional for everyday life,” Lefkowith says.
Our bodies don’t move only forward and backward. If you’re playing sports, for instance, you’re going to need the muscles that move you laterally, and help you start and stop.