How to Do Side Shuffles: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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The side shuffle is a popular agility exercise used by athletes of all fitness levels. In addition to being fun and adding variety to your lower body strength training workout, you can also perform side shuffles as part of your pre-exercise warm-up routine.

Also Known As: Lateral shuffle, side-to-side shuffle

Targets: Butt, hips, thighs, and calves

Level: Beginner

How to Do a Side Shuffle

woman doing side shuffle

Getty Images / HD91239130

You will need enough space to shuffle to one side and back. Decide in advance how many steps you will be taking during the shuffle (or the distance) and pace it out to ensure that you will have the room needed to complete this exercise.

When you're ready to begin, stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hinge forward at the hips with your knees slightly bent. Your chest is lifted and you have a neutral spine. Hold your hands out to your sides or in loose fists in front of your chest. This is the starting position.

  1. Move to your right using small, quick shuffle steps. If you're new to this exercise, keep your side shuffles slow and controlled before adding speed. This will help you gain body awareness and confidence before picking up the pace.
  2. Stop just briefly once you've reached your desired number of steps or distance.
  3. Repeat the shuffle movement, this time moving to the left. 
  4. Stop once you've reached the starting spot and either continue doing shuffles to the other side or, if you're done with the exercise, return to a standing position.

If performing side shuffles in an open space, such as a gymnasium or outdoors, it may be helpful to place items on the ground a certain distance apart. This ensures that you shuffle the same distance when going to your right and to your left.

Benefits of the Side Shuffle

The side shuffle is an agility exercise that targets the glutes, hips, thighs, and calves. Performing this exercise is a great way to strengthen your lower body while adding cardio into your existing workout program. The lateral movement boosts metabolism, increasing your calorie burn.

As an agility drill, the side shuffle helps develop coordination, balance, and speed. When used as part of a training program, it can improve an athlete's countermovement jump and jump shot performance.

This exercise is often used by basketball, tennis, and soccer players to increase their ability to move quickly in every direction. Research shows that side shuffles may also be useful for sports specialists and clinicians to evaluate knee valgus (a knock-kneed appearance).

This exercise serves a purpose in functional fitness as well. They enable you to quickly regain balance after an unpredictable step off a curb, for instance, in addition to preparing you to dodge a moving vehicle or falling object.

Other Variations of a Side Shuffle

This exercise can be modified to make it easier or more challenging, depending on your fitness level and goals.

Single Side Step

If fast-paced side shuffles feel too strenuous at first, perform single steps side to side instead. This will help you get comfortable with lateral body movement before adding in the quick shuffles.

Side Shuffle With Ground Touches

Touch the ground between the right and left shuffle to increase the challenge of the exercise. This will look similar to a basketball line drill or shuttle run, except it is performed laterally.

Banded Side Shuffle

You can work your lower body even more by incorporating the use of a resistance band. Place the band around the middle of your thighs and do side shuffles this way. For an even greater challenge, place the band around your ankles. (The lower the band, the more the challenge.)

Common Mistakes

Avoid these common mistakes to increase the safety and effectiveness of the lateral shuffle exercise.

Not Keeping the Core Engaged

Keeping your core engaged helps you maintain the right posture during this movement. It also reduces the risk of falling as you quickly shift from side to side.

Chest Not Lifted

There is a tendency to bend too far forward and drop the chest during side shuffles. Instead, work to keep your chest lifted and eyes forward to maintain good form during the exercise.

Stepping Too Wide

This exercise should be performed with small, quick shuffle steps side to side. Stepping too wide can slow your pace and reduce the effectiveness of the movement. 

Not Bending the Knees

If your legs are stiff and straight, you are not set up correctly to perform the exercise. Monitor your body position throughout the movement to ensure that your knees remain bent from start to finish. 

Safety and Precautions

Avoid performing side shuffles if you have a lower-extremity injury or instability, as abrupt shifts in direction could pose a risk to unstable joints. You might also want to avoid this exercise if you have weak knees or ankles.

If you have any concerns about whether this movement is safe for you, consult with your doctor or physical therapist. If you feel any pain at all during this exercise, stop it immediately.

When performing side shuffles, continue shuffling right and left for your desired length of time. Start with 10-second intervals and work up to 90-second sessions. As your fitness increases, you can also increase your distance or speed.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Jo S. 4 drills that will improve your agility. American Council on Exercise.

  2. Dello Iacono A, Ardigo L, Meckel Y, Padulo J. Effect of small-sided games and repeated shuffle sprint training on physical performance in elite handball players. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(3):830-40. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001139

  3. Lockie R, Schultz A, Callaghan S, Jeffriess M. The effects of traditional and enforced stopping speed and agility training on multidirectional speed and athletic function. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(6):1538-1551. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000309

  4. Zaslow T, Pace J, Mueske N, et al. Comparison of lateral shuffle and side-step cutting in young recreational athletes. Gait Posture. 2016;44:189-93. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2015.12.019

By Darla Leal
Darla Leal is a Master Fitness Trainer, freelance writer, and the creator of Stay Healthy Fitness, where she embraces a "fit-over-55" lifestyle.