Lateral band walks are one of my favorite warm-up exercises, especially for lower body strength training days when Olympic lifts and/or Squats are on featured on the lift.
The lateral band walk is a great exercise for glute activation along with being easy to learn and it can be performed quickly in a warmup.
I’m going to coach you proper form on how to do lateral band walks and also give you a little information on their benefits, muscles worked and a couple substitutions in case you don’t have a resistance band to work with.
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How To Lateral Band Walk
This exercise does require the use of a resistance band. A thin resistance band will work great and a mini-band is good too if you have that instead.
Start by taking the resistance band and double it over, essentially creating a double loop where there was just one. (This step isn’t necessary if you have mini band which are much shorter)
Now, take the resistance band, step into the loops and pull the band up to just above your knees.
Coaching Point: You may see some examples of a lateral band walk with the band around the ankles. While this is technically okay, I find that by placing the resistance band just above the knees it puts more of an emphasis on driving the knees out which gets more glute involvement.
Next, assume a good athletic stance with knees bent and hips bent, spine neutral and eyes straight ahead.
Feet should start shoulder width apart, toes straight ahead and knees pushed out over top of the shoe laces.
From this position, starting walking laterally (hence the name) by taking a small six inch step with the left foot first, followed by the right foot.
Coaching Point: A common mistake here is that once you get moving, it’s easy to allow your feet to come too close together which causes the resistance band to lose tension. Base should always be a minimum of shoulder width so tension remains on the band throughout the set.
Continue stepping and replacing until you’ve completed ten steps and then go back the direction you came from for ten steps.
Make sure to maintain that good athletic position with toes pointed straight ahead. (Pointing the toes out lets the hip flexors become involved and takes work away from the glute med.
That’s it. You’ve now successfully done a set of lateral band walks.
Lateral Band Walk Benefits
Lateral Band Walks are great for working and activating the glutes, specifically the Gluteus Medius. The Gluteus Medius is an often overlooked and underutilized muscle that can ‘turn itself off’, often times because of tight hip flexors caused by sitting all day.
Combine running and/or cycling with sitting all day and now you’re really susceptible to disengaged glutes.
However, by not activating your Glute Medius, other muscle groups have to overcompensate which can then lead to other issues ranging from back pain, issues with hip joints, knee pain and/or pain from tight IT bands and Tensor Fasciae Latae.
By performing exercises like lateral band walks you can essentially ‘reset’ the gluteal muscles (Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus) and get them firing again.
This can not only help you with performance – helping prevent knee valgus with squats, being able to generate more power, etc – but also may help with ongoing lower body pain that you’ve been experiencing.
Lateral Band Walk Muscles Worked
I’ve pretty much already touched on what muscles the lateral band walk works, but to quickly recap:
The lateral band walk works the hip abductors, specifically the gluteal muscles – the Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus.
Lateral Band Walk Substitutions
Don’t have resistance bands? Don’t worry, I’ve got a couple simple alternatives to the lateral band walk that also work glute activation and require no equipment at all.
Lateral Leg Raises
Lay on your left side, hips stacked on top of each other, with your left leg bent and pulled up to a 90 degree angle. Keep the right leg straight, foot dorsiflexed and toe pointed slightly down toward the ground.
From this starting position, raise your right leg and then lower back down, under control, back to the starting position. Complete 10 to 15 reps and then flip to the other side.
For fire hydrants, start on all fours, like a table top position in Yoga.
From here, lift your right leg up, keeping the knee at a 90 degree angle and then lower back down to the starting position.
Not the most elegant name for an exercise, but once you know how to do them you have to admit it is descriptive.
Other Glute Activation Exercises
Often times I will pair lateral band walks with one or two other glute activation exercises, usually on our squat days. All of these exercises involve using a resistance band in the same position, just above the knees, which makes it easy to transition from one exercise to the next.
Linear Band Walk
Very similar to the lateral band walk, but instead of a lateral walk you’ll walk forward and backward instead.
The key on this exercise is to keep the base shoulder width and the knees pushed out (avoid knee valgus).
Banded External Rotations
Also similar to the lateral band walk, this glute exercise is performed from a more static position.
Start in the same athletic stance as lateral band walk, but instead of a lateral walk, simply let your right knee collapse towards your mid-line. Now push it back out wide. Once you complete your reps for that side immediately do the other.
Banded Bodyweight Squat
The final exercise I’ll share with you is perhaps the most simple. Bodyweight squats with a resistance band just above the knees is a great warmup movement that gets the blood flowing and can help activate the glutes.
If you want to start working lateral band walk into your workout routine, but you don’t have any resistance bands you can pick them up from many places online and sometimes at big box sporting goods stores as well.
Personally, I’ve always ordered my bands from Power Systems. They’re priced well and they’ve always proven pretty durable for me.
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I personally suffered through a time when I was having horrible pain in my IT bands due to poor glute activation. How, I thought, could someone who could squat 500 pounds not be using their glutes?
It seemed crazy, but after a couple of weeks of glute activation work all of my pain was gone and I was sold.
Now that you know the proper form, I highly recommend working lateral band walk and other glute activation exercises into your warmups.