Lunges are difficult enough at the best of times.
But, there are those of us who seem to perform lunges perfectly on one side, but really struggle doing lunges on the other side.
If you’re unable to do lunges on one side, or find it much harder, this typically comes down to muscle weakness, tightness, or a lack of flexibility. This is most common in the gluteus medius, core muscles, hip flexors, and poor ankle or foot dorsiflexion.
You Have Weak Gluteus Medius Muscles
The fact that you’re able to do lunges on one side but struggle with the other means that this isn’t always likely to be a flexibility issue.
Sure, it’s conceivable that you can be more flexible and mobile on one side of your body than the other.
However, when it comes to lunges the struggle you’re having is more inclined to be a stabilization issue.
The gluteus medius is one the main stabilizers during lunges, so a weakness can definitely impact on your ability to perform the movement.
In fact, it’s your gluteus medius that keeps your pelvis level and stops it from tilting forward, which can often be an issue during lunges.
Weak gluteus medius muscles are most prevalent in those who spend a lot of time sitting.
So, if you work a desk job, drive for a living, or spend much of your day in front of a computer screen, this will affect the strength of your gluteus medius muscles.
Additionally, these muscles could be weaker on one side of the body due to postural issues.
In fact, it’s quite common for people to be weaker on one side of the body than the other due to their posture.
How to Strengthen the Gluteus Medius
Now, here’s a catch-22 situation – one of the main weighted exercises to strengthen the gluteus medius happens to be lunges.
And many of the favoured lower body exercises also happen to work the gluteus medius too, e.g squats, deadlifts, hip extensions, glute bridges, etc.
That being said, the fact that you’re struggling with lunges on one side means that using bilateral weighted movement probably isn’t the best option.
In fact, performing unilateral bodyweight exercises, perhaps along with the use of resistance bands, would provide the best solution.
Some of my favourite exercises to target the gluteus medius include:
You can check out how to perform these exercises, and a couple of other great movements that target the gluteus medius too in the following video.
You Have a Weak Core
Lunges can actually expose many weaknesses in the body.
And in addition to your gluteus medius your core plays an important role too.
And our ability to balance begins at our core.
In fact, the vast majority of movements that we make in everyday life, not just in the gym, stem from our core.
So, in reality, a weak core could affect many things that you do, and this of course includes lunges.
That being said, it’s not just balance that your core can impact during lunges, but a weak core can cause your trunk to lean forward excessively.
This can actually cause issues with the lower back and hip flexors too.
Plus, it is perfectly feasible that your core can be weaker on one side than the other.
This once more has much to do with your posture, as well as your daily activities.
How to Strengthen Your Core
Upon hearing the word “core” many people automatically assume this means their abs.
Now, while your abs certainly do form a major part of your core muscles, there’s a lot more to it.
In fact, while I’m on the subject of lunges it should come as no surprise that the glutes form part of your core.
The same can be said for your pelvic floor muscles, diaphragm, as well as the muscles that are attached to your pelvis, i.e hamstrings, hip adductors, and hip flexors.
So, in order to strengthen your core this means working all these muscles.
Some of the best core exercises include:
You Have Tight Hip Flexors
I’ve already mentioned the hip flexors a couple of times, especially when referring to the core muscles.
And these tiny muscles are responsible for so much movement (or lack of) in the human body.
One of the main issues when it comes to lunges is tight hip flexors.
In fact, funnily enough, one the best ways to stretch out the hip flexors is with variations of lunge stretches.
So, yet again, another muscle that is affecting your lunge performance that can be strengthened and improved through lunges.
It’s also interesting to note that loosening and strengthening your hip flexors can lead to improvements in many other areas of your life.
In fact, one of my favourite trainers, Mike Westerdal of CriticalBench, explains in his Unlock Your Hip Flexors workout program that tight hip flexors are the root cause of the following issues:
So, as you can see, working on your hip flexors will not only improve your lunges, but many other areas of your life too.
You Have Poor Ankle/Foot Dorsiflexion
Dorsiflexion of the ankle or foot is when you draw your toes back towards your shins.
And this is the exact process that your ankles and feet go through when you lunge.
In fact, I have previously spoken about lunges hurting your toes, and this often occurs due to poor flexibility and dorsiflexion.
Furthermore, ankle and foot dorsiflexion can cause real discomfort in those who have flat feet or plantar fasciitis.
And, of course, these issues can develop on one side of the body and not the other.
So, this could be an explanation for why you find lunges more difficult on one side than the other.
Key Learning Points
- The gluteus medius in one of the main stabilizing muscles during lunges. So, a weakness on either side will affect your ability to perform lunges.
- A weak core will impact how effectively you do lunges, and it’s perfectly feasible that your core is stronger on one side than the other.
- Your hip flexors are used every single time you perform a lunge. Therefore, tightness or weakness in this area of the body will cause issues with lunging.
- Lunges involve both ankle and foot dorsiflexion. So, if you lack flexibility in your ankle, foot, or both, once more, lunges can be a real struggle.
- Dorsiflexion can be much more difficult or even painful if you have flat feet or plantar fasciitis.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.