Side steps exercise is both a cardio and toning workout that utilizes the lower body muscles specifically; the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
This exercise is done in a somewhat mini squat position with your knees and ankles aligned to help maintain balance as you step from side to side.
By exerting pressure from one side of your leg to another, this exercise assumes an in and out movement where you take one foot out and in alternatively then switch to the other foot.
You should ensure that you maintain an even posture throughout these movements by remaining in one height position the whole workout session.
Including this workout into your daily exercise routine will better your muscle flexibility and actively involve some of your rarely used lower body muscles. As a should-do cardio workout, it is only best if we learn how to perform it right in the steps below.
HOW TO DO SIDE STEPS EXERCISE
This side steps exercise will not require any equipment making it easy to do both at the gym and home.
- First start this exercise with your feet shoulder width apart, ensuring that your ankles and knees are aligned. You will assume a squat position and will stay in this position during the course of the workout.
- You will then bring your feet together before stepping your right foot out to the side and keeping all your weight on your left side. Your right leg should as straight as possible to guarantee that you keep and maintain tension
- Next, you will step your right foot inwards to meet your left before extending your left foot outward. Your left leg should be straight as the bent right leg gets all the weight.
- Alternate from one foot to the other making certain to keep the motion going. You can increase the pace as you step from side to side or add a resistant band to increase the difficulty of this exercise.
WHAT MUSCLES DO SIDE STEPS EXERCISE WORK
By moving your foot left to right in this exercise, you engage your glute muscles.
The main gluteal muscles used during this workout are; gluteus maximus that helps maintain a squat level as you step in and out and gluteus medius that aid in muscle control as you move your feet.
These muscles support the bent leg that carries the weight of the entire body while the other leg is in a straight. The glutes are therefore very important muscles as they are fully involved all through this workout.
While in a squat position your knee joint is engaged to ensure that your knee and ankle are in the same position.
Your quadriceps made up of; rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis and vastus intermedius muscles are responsible for retaining your knee in a bent position.
Located at the front portion of your thigh and as one of the strongest muscle categories in your body, these muscles will keep your thighs intact as you move from side to side.
You normally use your hamstrings when you perform any leg movements which are in plenty during side steps exercise.
As you squat to begin the exercise, bend your knees and move your feet sideways and inwards, you work your hamstrings.
Found at the back portion of your leg, these muscles assist in weight accommodation and provide stability to the bent leg as the other one is kept straight.
BENEFITS OF SIDE STEPS EXERCISE
INVOLVE LARGER MUSCLE GROUPS
This exercise aims at working your lower body muscles and it does this by directing muscle tension to a larger lower body muscle group. This tension can lead to muscle stimulation in growth and strength.
Unlike other exercises, the side steps exercise focuses on your glutes, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps and hip muscles by exercising them at a lateral angle.
For most lower body exercises, movement involved is usually forward so having to exercise the aforementioned muscles at a sideways angle is a bonus.
PREVENTS LOWER BACK AND BODY INJURIES
Physiotherapist are taking to this workout as a sure treatment for all their patients suffering from lower back and lower body injuries. As said earlier, this exercise works a large group of lower body muscles leading to more flexible and more aligned muscles.
Just make sure that you are doing the same number of reps on both legs to make sure that they are evenly worked for similar muscle growth and symmetry.
Performing this exercise regularly will ensure that your hamstrings, calves, glutes and quadricep muscles are strong and healthy.
The stronger these muscles are, the more flexible and stable they will be leading to an all-rounded strong lower body muscle arrangement.
ALTERNATIVES TO SIDE STEPS EXERCISE
Working similar lower body muscles, wall squats are recommended mainly if you are dealing with knee problems as it offers support. You will need to find a smooth, strong wall to perform this exercise.
- Begin by putting your body against a wall then assume a squat position while leaning your back on the wall.
- Let your feet be shoulder width apart as you drop down till your thighs are parallel to the ground. Good form is key so ensure that your back is straight and your head up throughout the workout.
- Use your legs to push your bac further against the wall and remain in that position. You will feel tension in your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves
- Do as many reps as you can.
Although this exercise is not as aggressive as the side steps exercise with regards to movement, it stimulates the same muscles. You will need an elevated place to stand, could be a sturdy box, bench or stool.
- Start by getting your elevated equipment then raise your feet, one at a time.
- When at the top, bring the starting foot down as the other foot follows shortly. As you step up and down, ensure that you are stable and steady.
- Repeat this workout for as long as you can. You could make it more challenging by increasing the height of your platform or including weights in both your hands to lift as you step up and down.
This knee-friendly exercise focuses on your hamstrings and glutes without putting any strain on your lower body. This exercise requires no equipment.
- Lie on your back then bend your knees over your ankles. Your hands placed on the floor should be able to touch your ankles.
- Keep your back as straight as possible and ground your arms firmly to your sides.
- Engage your core and glutes as you lift your hips up then hold that position.
- Slowly lower your hips back to the floor.
SIDE STEPS EXERCISE MISTAKES TO AVOID
TURNING YOUR FEET OUTWARD
When you turn your feet outward instead of placing them parallel to each other, you risk not fully activating your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves.
This improper form can lead you to activate your hip flexors more than any other muscle as they end up doing most of the work.
If you are struggling to keep your feet aligned, you can turn them slightly inward. This will help you focus on the right muscles and even reduce any form of knee pressure or strain.
COLLAPSING YOUR LEG INWARDS
As you move your foot in and out, you may cave your knee inwards and this may lead to knee joint strain leading to injury. While you bend one leg and straighten the other, ensure that your knees are aligned to your ankles and hip bone.
Sustain tension by placing weight only on the bent leg and use your glutes instead of your knees to alternate weight from one side to the other to avoid knee damage due to excessive muscle strain.
FEET TOO CLOSE TOGETHER
As you step to your sides, straighten one leg in a solid squat stance while you bend the other leg.
This will help you balance, providing you needed space to move sideways severally while maintaining the same height during the exercise.
When you move sideways, ensure that you give your feet a good distance to avoid knee pressure from performing in a narrow position.
With an array of benefits, the side steps exercise is a necessary lower body exercise if you are looking to build your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves in endurance and strength.
You can make this exercise a tad bit challenging by adding weights as you do your lateral movements.
By sustaining muscle tension all through this exercise, you are guaranteed lower body symmetry and stability, improved flexibility and reduced trips to your physical therapist.