Squat with Side Leg Lift Raise – How to Perform, Benefits and Workout

squats with side leg raise lift

The humble bodyweight squat is a simple but incredibly effective way at building functional strength in the lower body.

For those wanting to add progression to this movement, including a side leg lift after each repetition is a great way to further activate the glutes and abductors.

In this exercise guide, we outline how to perform a squat with side leg lift properly, and the benefits you’ll get by including this in your workouts, as well as variations and ideas for increasing difficulty.

How to Perform Squats with Side Leg Raises

To do squats with side leg raises:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Lower yourself into a squatting position, so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold for a moment.
  • Push yourself up out of the squat and back into the starting position.
  • Transfer your weight to your left leg and raise your right leg out to the side. Hold for a moment before returning this leg back to the ground. Try and keep your leg as straight as possible during the lift.
  • Repeat this movement but transfer your weight to your right leg and raise your left leg out to the side.
  • Repeat this for repetitions.

Coach’s Tip – This should be a very controlled movement, especially the side leg lift. Avoid rushing the movement or using a swinging motion during the side leg lift. Instead, focus on engaging your glutes, core and hamstrings to lift and stabilize the leg. As you lift your leg to the side, keep your torso upright and avoid leaning to the side too much.

Muscles Worked

The squat part of the movement primarily works the glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and hip flexors.

The additional side leg lift further works the abductors, glutes and core.

Benefits of Squats with Side Leg Raises

Squats help to strengthen the lower body and develop better functional movement. By adding more weight, squats become an effective powerlifting and bodybuilding exercise to add muscle mass and definition. Alternatively, they can be used as part of a HIIT workout to provide cardio-vascular benefits.

The additional side leg lift engages the abductors and glutes, and develops better hip range of motion. This can help loosen up tight hips, which can cause all sorts of problems, such as lower back pain. Open hips help improve movement and reduce the risk of injuries or pain.

Lifting your left will also require balance and stability. Your core and stabilizing muscles will be engaged to help avoid falling over. Balance training is a fundamental pillar to healthy aging and such exercises are worth their weight in gold when it comes to enjoying better movement as we age.

Common Mistakes

The most common mistake associated with a side leg raise is leaning too much as you lift your leg.

This doesn’t test your hip mobility and therefore isn’t engaging the muscles as effectively.

Squat Side Lift Variations

There are multiple ways to increase difficulty and add variation to the squat with side leg lift, including:


Barbell squats are a common progress from the regular air squat. Holding a weighted barbell on your trapezius muscle/upper back, will create additional weight for your muscles to move during the exercise. This is common in powerlifting to help develop strength, power and muscle mass.

If you are including a side leg lift, it means you’ll need to stabilize the barbell while balancing on one leg. This means it’s important to opt for a light barbell to avoid injury.


Dumbbells are another great way to add additional weight. You can hold them on your shoulders, such as with a power clean movement, or by your side.


Holding a single kettlebell in a goblet squat also naturally lends itself to a single leg raise as well. Again, it’s important not to select a kettlebell that is too heavy and makes lifting your leg feel unrealistic.

Resistance Bands

If you want to focus more on toning and sculpting your muscles, instead of building strength and mass, then resistance bands could be a better choice.

Place the bands around your legs, ideally just above the knee. The bands will create resistance as you lift your leg out, forcing the muscles to work harder.

Reverse Kickbacks

Squats with reverse kickbacks is a similar movement but focuses more on glute strength, as opposed to hip flexibility. Our recent guide explains how to perform this movement, the benefits and muscles worked.

You could even add a kickback and a side lift in the same exercise to create 2 additional movements after the initial squat.

Standing Fire Hydrant

A standing fire hydrant exercise is basically a side leg lift with a bent knee. If you are having difficulty keeping your leg straight during the side lift, then you could try it with a bent knee instead. This should be easier and require less stability than with a straight leg. It still helps to open up the hips.

Squats with Side Leg Raises Workout

This movement is very easy to fit into all sorts of workouts. From strength training to HIIT routines to warm-ups, the movement can be adapted to suit your needs.

As an example, try some of the below

3 sets x 10 repetitions of squats with side leg raises


5 sets x 5 repetitions of barbell squats with side leg raises


4 sets x 8 repetitions of squats with side leg raises with resistance band

Bottom Line

Adding a side leg raise to air squats is a simple way to add progression and keep your muscles engaged for longer.

The additional side leg raise helps to test your hip mobility and works on your abductors and glutes.

You could do them as part of a quick warm-up for weightlifting or as part of a HIIT workout.

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