Cross-Lateral Exercises


Exercise has many undoubted physical benefits, but some exercises go beyond the physical. Exercises that move one part of the body to the other side -- cross-lateral -- do more than strengthen muscles, they also promote healthy brain function. Cross-lateral exercises can also improve balance and flexibility. As with all physical activity, you should warm up and stretch before you begin.

Have Clear Goals

  • Your goals will dictate how many reps and sets you complete. To increase strength, do two to six sets of four to eight reps, resting for 120 to 300 seconds between sets. For muscular endurance, do two to three sets of 12 to 16 reps, resting for no longer than 30 seconds. If you’re more interested in general fitness, shoot for one to three sets of eight to 15 reps, resting for 30 to 90 seconds. For weighted exercises, select a weight that’s heavy enough to fatigue your muscles by the last two reps.

Curtsy Squat

  • This exercise targets the quads and glutes. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. Cross your right leg behind and to the left of your body, lowering your glutes until your left thigh is parallel with the ground. Drive through your left heel and return to the starting position, switching legs and repeating for the desired number of reps. Note: Your back foot does not have to be flat on the ground. To make this more difficult, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang at your sides.

Wood Chop

  • Abs and shoulders are targeted with this exercise. From a staggered stance -- feet shoulder-width with one forward -- hold a medicine ball between your hands. Extend both arms and bring the medicine ball up and to the right side of your body until it’s level with your nose. Keeping your arms extended, bring the weight down to a little lower than your left hip, squatting slightly and rotating your torso and hips with your arms. Note: Your back foot pivots on the floor with your body, and you load your body weight on the front heel. Reverse direction and repeat.

Full Plank With Ankle Touch

  • As with other planks, this version works the core, but it also targets the obliques. Start at the top of a pushup with your hands directly below your shoulders. Lift your right ankle and bring it under your body. Simultaneously bring your left hand under your body and touch the ankle before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other side. To decrease difficulty, just cross your ankle under but don’t touch it with your hand.

Cardio Options

  • Incorporate cross-lateral exercises into a total-body weight-lifting routine for best results, and throw some cardio into the mix for improved health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends committing to a weekly minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular activity. When you can do so safely, incorporate cross-lateral movements into cardio activities, such as touching your elbow with the opposite hand, alternately, while walking briskly.

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