What do knock knees, flat feet, and IT band syndrome all have in common? They’re often associated with weak glutes and hip abductors (muscles that lift your legs out to the sides). If you want to strengthen these muscles, the lateral band walk is a go-to move for any resistance band workout.
While there are dozens of lifts and movements that target the glutes and hip abductors, resistance band exercises like the lateral band walk are unique, says Cody Braun, Beachbody fitness expert. “Bands allow you to apply resistance to your body where weights might otherwise be awkward,” he explains. “Each time you step your feet together, your glutes have to eccentrically control the motion of your knee, which can help correct knee valgus (inward collapse of the knees).”
Lateral Band Walk: Step-by-Step (Literally!) Instructions
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- Fit a looped resistance band around your legs just above both knees, and stand with your feet together.
- Keeping your back flat and abs engaged, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body into a squat, shifting your weight toward your heels.
- Maintain the squat as you simultaneously raise your hips several inches and step your right foot out to the right, then lower your hips fully.
- Again raise your hips several inches as you bring your left foot together with your right, and lower again fully, maintaining tension in the band so that your knees don’t cave inward.
- Repeat to the opposite side, alternating sides for reps. Perform equal reps on each side.
Lateral Band Walk Modifications
Depending on your fitness level, you may want to adjust this move to make it easier or more challenging. And there’s no shame in the modification game! It’s always best — and safest — to adjust the intensity of any exercise so you can do it with proper form, while it still challenges you.
How to make the lateral band walk easier
Like dumbbells, exercise bands are available in different levels of resistance. To make lateral band walks (or any resistance loop exercise) easier, simply use a lighter band that offers less resistance.
You can also ease your way into lateral walks by adjusting the position of the resistance loop. Lateral band walks are easier when performed with the loop placed slightly higher on the thigh.
And always be mindful of your knee positioning. “Don’t let your knees cave inward as you move,” Braun advises. By keeping your knees bent and tracking over the middle of your foot, you’ll ensure that you’re activating your glutes and hip abductors.
How to make the lateral band walk harder
Ready for a challenge? You can increase the difficulty of a lateral band walk by using a thicker exercise band that provides more resistance.
And, if you typically loop the resistance band just above your knees, try placing the exercise band right above your ankles. You’ll quickly find that a more distal placement (one that’s farther from the center of the body) makes the lateral band walk harder.
And remember, to really get the most out of the lateral band walk, maintain a quarter squat or “athletic stance” as you step.
Benefits of the Lateral Band Walk
“The lateral band walk strengthens the glute medius, which is an important stabilizing muscle that often gets overlooked and underutilized,” Braun explains. By targeting this muscle (you’ll feel it fire after just a few steps), band walks can help improve your gait and promote better motor control, while helping correct some injury-causing imbalances and movement dysfunction, including knee valgus, aka “knock knees.”
This simple yet challenging movement also gets bonus points for its booty-boosting capabilities. “The lateral band walk is also a great way to build a fuller, firmer butt,” Braun says.
In addition to offering an effective workout, the resistance loops used to perform the lateral band walk are affordable, portable, and space-efficient. While a complete set of free weights requires dedicated storage space and a significant financial investment, resistance bands are comparably cheap and can hang from a hook in your closet. And when travel takes you away from your normal workout routine, the loops can easily be tucked into the front pocket of your carry-on, allowing you to bust out the lateral band walk right in your hotel room.
What Muscles Do Lateral Band Walks Work?
The quads are formed by four distinct muscles on the front of your femur (thighbone) that are responsible for extension at the knee. They consist of the rectus femoris, the vastus lateralis, the vastus medialis, and the vastus intermedius.
These are the muscles of your butt. They help straighten your hip joints when you stand up and abduct (i.e., draw limbs away from the body’s midline) the leg with support from the abductors.
Speaking of which, these muscles, located on the outsides of your hips, work with the glute medius and minimus to lift your legs laterally. They include the tensor fasciae latae, superior and inferior gemellus, and piriformis.