Lunges are undeniably one of the easiest exercises to do yet incredibly powerful in targeting different lower body muscles. Even the most popular variation of the lunge — the forward lunge — is adaptable for people of all fitness levels. You just need to step forward with one leg and then drive back upwards to return to the starting position. It’s easy to execute and effective.
One thing that makes lunges different from other exercises is that you can basically perform it anywhere — all you need is a flat surface to stand on, and you’re good to go. As you master the basic lunge, you can try out other variations to challenge your balance, coordination, and stability and bring more tension to other muscles in the body.
How To Do The Lunges
What You’ll Need:
- Any flat surface. Lunges can be performed virtually anywhere.
- Dumbbells to make the exercise more challenging. Grab a dumbbell on each hand with feet shoulder-width apart.
Step 1. Begin In A Standing Position
Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart to perform the basic lunge. Make sure that your left and right leg are properly planted on the ground to maintain stability and balance.
Step 2. Take A Step Forward With Your Dominant Leg
Take a step forward with your right foot (your step target should be longer than a walking stride), so one foot forward is ahead of your torso, and the left foot is behind. Ensure your front foot flat on the ground while the heel of your back foot should rise off the ground.
Step 3. Lower Your Body While Bending The Forward Knee To 90 Degrees
Slowly bend your forward knee (right knee) approximately 90 degrees as you lower yourself. Maintain an upright trunk, shins are vertical, and engage your core as you maintain the lunge position.
Step 4. Push Your Front Leg Up & Repeat The Steps With The Other Leg
With force, push off from your front leg to return to the starting position. Switch legs by putting your left leg forward, bending your left knee, and repeating steps one to four.
Great Assessment Tool
The lunge, and all of its variations, are a great tool for assessing imbalances and weaknesses in your structure. You can address problems concerning your core muscles as lunges require you to use different parts of your body to complete one set.
The lunge is one type of unilateral exercise that challenges your knee and hip muscles. Using these muscle groups regularly increases visibility to limitations or compensations as you work out different sides of your body.
Improves Performance In Deadlift and Back Squat
The Deadlift and back squat will require coordination and stability around the knee and hip flexors. Lunges can effectively address weak points in your lower body, making it easier for you to maintain the proper form when performing deadlift and back squat.
Improves Day-To-Day Activities
The lunge is a functional exercise, which means that its movements mimic actions you take every day in your life, such as picking something on the floor, walking, or running. Lunges work your large lower body muscle groups, so you can perform day-to-day activities with ease and lower your risk of injuries.
Targets Different Muscle Groups
Aside from offering different variations, lunges can also target different muscles in the body. Alter the loading parameters, reps, sets, and rest times of the lunges, and you can use this exercise to improve muscle strength, boost overall power, and achieve muscular hypertrophy.
Common Lunge Mistakes to Avoid
- Lunging too forward: You need to lunge forward to complete a set of this exercise, but putting your front knee too forward can do more harm than good. This can put too much stress on your front knee, which can possibly result in pain and injuries. Maintain proper form when performing lunges by keeping your front knee in line with your second toe.
- Externally rotating the back knee: Refrain from rotating your back knee in an attempt to remain stable in your lunge position. If you start to feel pain in your back knee, check your alignment in the mirror. Your rear knee should point to the floor as you reach the bottom of the lunge.
- Stance too wide or too close: Putting your feet too close together puts too much stress on your knees, while taking them too far apart can negatively impact the flexibility of your back leg. Regularly check your stance by getting into a lunge position. You can do this by lowering all the way down and resting your back knee on the floor.
- Your back leg is straight: Stepping too far forward will cause you to straighten your back leg. This should be avoided as it can cause injuries and prevent you from targeting your lower body muscles. Correct this mistake by taking a smaller step forward and bending your back knee to 90-degrees.
- Not using your glutes: Glutes should be performed using your lower body, not only your feet and quads. As you sink and stand when performing lunges, focus on squeezing your glutes to ensure that these muscle groups are also doing some work. Unnecessarily using other muscle groups to compensate for your glutes defeats the purpose of lunges.
Lunges Muscles Worked
- Adductors: Your adductors play a significant role in extension and hip flexion. Toning and strengthening your adductors will make it easier for you to perform other movements that use your extension and hip flexion, namely back squats, deadlifts, and lunge variations.
- Glutes: The unilateral movements in the lunges allow a larger range of motion around your hip joints, placing tension on your glute muscles. By working out your glutes, you can provide a better cushion to your spine, which can help prevent lower back and neck pain.
- Quads: Lunges require using your knee joints, putting tension on your quad muscles. Working on your quad muscles can improve the stability of your knees, reduce your risk of knee injuries, and make day-to-day movements easier to accomplish.
- Other muscles involved in mobilizing and stabilizing the body during a lunge include the calves, hamstrings erector spinae, obliques, multifidus, and transverse abdominis.
Lunges vs Split Squats
The lunge and split squat are similar because both will require you to stagger your stance and squat down. However, these two exercises are different when it comes to the movements and the muscles they target.
The lunge is done in motion, specifically in the form of walking forward or talking a single step forward, backward, or laterally. The split squat is static, which means that it involves stationary movements. This makes lunges more dynamic than split squats.
The second difference between lunges and split squats is the muscles they target. Lunges are an excellent exercise if you want to tone and strengthen your lower body as a whole, while split squats are ideal for honing your quadriceps muscles.
Our Trainer’s Suggested Sets and Programs
For Building More Muscles
To maximize muscle growth, we highly recommend training using a wide range of reps and training volumes. Do at least three sets of 12 reps of lunges while using moderate weight.
Depending on your current muscle strength, you can also pause at the bottom or slow down the eccentric to increase time under tension for your quads and adductors. This will help you build muscles faster.
For Better Endurance
To improve the endurance of your lunges, do five sets of 20 reps using low to moderate weight. Over time, this will enable you to master the basic lunge and easily perform other varieties of lunges.
For More Strength
Because lunges use unilateral movements, we don’t suggest lifting too heavy. Instead, you should treat weights as accessories to your strength movements. Do six sets of 12 reps with moderate to heavyweight to increase your overall strength.
What makes lunges different from other exercises is that you can alter their movements to target different muscles and fit your fitness goals. Regardless of how much weight you can lift or what your fitness goals are, you can easily find and incorporate the best lunge variation into your workout regimen.
As the name suggests, the Reverse Lunge is performed by taking a step back instead of putting one foot forward. The reverse lunge is an excellent variation for beginners who want to improve their overall lunge form as the reverse stepping motion is easier to control than performing a forward lunge. This variation also puts tension on your hip flexion, ideal if you want to focus on your glutes and hamstring.
This variation mimics the forward lunge but with more movements. Walking lunges are a great variation to the basic lunge because the nature of taking steps adds a level of focus on coordination and balance. The walking lunge provides a dynamic lower body training option that works the muscles of your posterior chain (muscles located at the backside of your body).
Instead of putting a foot forward, the lateral lunge is performed by stepping one foot out to the side then standing up to return to the starting position. The lateral lunge is a powerful exercise because it puts tension on the muscles around your hips, improving the external and internal rotations and movements of your legs.
This variation doesn’t require stepping out or returning your steps, making it a great option for people who have knee pain or are still new to lunges. The static lunge emphasizes the lateral and medial quadriceps muscles, so you can easily flex your thighs and complete daily activities, such as jumping and running.
If you’re looking for an exercise that focuses on your inner thighs and gluteus medius, the curtsy lunge is for you. This variation targets your inner thighs as you need them to hold your legs as you lower your position and work on your gluteus medius to stabilize your pelvis as you lunge in a cross-legged position.
A dumbbell lung follows the same steps as a basic lunge — you’ll still need to start with a forward lunge position — but will require the use of dumbbells. Aside from targeting your lower body, using a pair of dumbbells can improve your upper body muscles. The dumbbell lunge is a great variation if you want to work your entire body.
The advanced exercise is ideal for individuals looking for high-intensity interval training. The jumping lunge helps you gain balance, speed, and power while taking your body outside of its comfort zone.
The static lunge is a lunge variation worth adding to your workout because it challenges your balance and improves your hip flexibility. Since you’ll be putting most of your weight on your front heel, performing the static lunge regularly enables you to tone your rear leg muscles.
Looking for other alternatives to lunges? If so, then this section is for you. Here, we’ve listed down three of the best alternative to lunges but are just as effective in targeting different muscles on your lower body.
This is a type of functional exercise that replicates climbing the stairs, making it an excellent option for seniors. If you want to add more intensity to your kettlebell step-ups and work more on your hips, legs, and buttocks, simply increase the step height.
Dumbbell Single Leg Deadlift
Because this exercise doesn’t require a deep knee bend, many users can tolerate the dumbbell single leg deadlift better. Perform several reps of dumbbell single-leg deadlifts every day to strengthen your buttocks, hips, and legs, as well as improve your stability and balance.
If weight-bearing exercises are too painful on your knees, try performing bridges. This exercise relies on your body weight and is excellent for beginners who want to strengthen their core, hamstrings, buttocks, and inner thighs.
The lunge is easy to master and targets different muscle groups simultaneously. This exercise can also improve your metabolism, helping you lose weight faster and easier.
So, what are you waiting for? Follow all of the steps mentioned in this article and start performing the lunge ASAP. You’ll be surprised how this simple exercise can help you build stronger and more toned lower body muscles!