Lunges are a fitness staple, and for a good reason. This simple body movement requires no equipment but your own body. If you so desired, you could even lunge down your driveway or through the parking lot on your way to get groceries – it doesn’t matter where you do them, just as long as you know how. However when done incorrectly, lunges can damage your joints. So make sure you follow our guide so that you do not unnecessarily strain your knees.
Once you are able to do a proper lunge, however, you won’t be able to resist to incorporating them into your workout routine. Doing lunges is the ultimate exercise to firm up your backside, and who doesn’t want that?
- 1 Why Do Lunges?
- 2 Which Muscles Do Lunges Work?
- 3 How Do You Do A Proper Lunge?
- 4 Assisted Lunges
- 5 What Not to do When You Lunge
- 6 Variations
- 7 What Next?
Why Do Lunges?
Quite simply they are wonderful for toning your bum, lunges also work to strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and abs. Alongside the lack of equipment needed, the beauty of lunges is that no matter what your level of fitness, this exercise is accessible to you.
Perhaps because of, or maybe due to the fact that lunges are such an approachable exercise, they are incredibly effective. When done properly, lunges improve everything from strength to muscle tone and stability to posture.
Increasing your strength through bodyweight exercises contributes to your overall health as they augment your bone strength, increase your endurance, improve your mental focus, and even lessen symptoms of serious medical conditions such as arthritis and diabetes.
Which Muscles Do Lunges Work?
The chief benefit of lunges lies in their ability to strengthen pretty much all of your lower body muscles including your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and obliques. Additionally one of the core benefciaries of lunging, is literally your core muscles which you engage to keep everything in balance.
Developing your core stamina and stability is integral to your ability to perform everyday actions with ease. Even actions as simple as turning, bending, and standing with correct posture are dependent on the strength of your core. Therefore training your core with lunges not only improves how you look aesthetically, but it will also help alleviate back pain and increase your posture, balance and stability.
How Do You Do A Proper Lunge?
When it comes to lunging, don’t be afraid to go slow and look in a mirror to check your form. The more time you take getting it right, the bigger the chance that exercising with good form will become muscle memory for you in the future. To begin, you need to understand what proper form is. Developing the correct form for lunges is relatively straightforward since lunging is a simple movement that can easily be broken down into three steps.
Start your lunge by standing comfortably with your feet shoulder-width apart, your spine long and straight, your shoulders back, and your gaze forward.
Step forward with one leg until you are in a wide stance (approximately one leg’s distance between your feet). Make sure that you maintain your vertical spine and keep your hips facing forward.
Slowly lower your hips until your knees are at about 90 degree angles. Be careful that your front knee does not extend past your ankle and your back knee does not touch the ground. Once you are at the bottom of your lunge, keep your weight in your heels and push back up into your starting position. Repeat this motion on both sides evenly.
For those of you that prefer to see lunges being done properly, here is a nice little explanation video.
If you are new to exercise of simply finding it hard to keep your balance while doing these, don’t worry, this is fairly common. To get yourself started, you can use a chair or wall for balance. This version still works all the muscles of the hips, glutes and thighs and as your muscles strengthen, so will your balance and you will find yourself needing the support less and less.
To do an assisted lunge you go through exactly the same steps as the basic lunge but simply place one hand on a wall or the back of a chair and the other on your hip. Try to hold your core and keep your balance as much as possible but know you have some extra stability
This is a great way to practice lunges without losing your balance.
What Not to do When You Lunge
Now before we go on to the more advanced stuff, you need to make sure you have got your basic form right. There are several common errors that people make when lunging. Be aware and keep alert when exercising so that you don’t commit them and potentially injure yourself!
Turning your foot inward.
Many people turn their toes in when lunging to try and aid their balance. This can mess up your knees. If you find yourself doing this, stop your set. Usually this motion indicates that you have ankle instability or an imbalance in your calf muscles. Instead of trying to lunge through them, first work to fix these issues and then go back to lunging properly.
You let your knees cave in.
Your knees could be caving in due to the fact that you are turning your toes inwards. Alternatively, it could be a sign that you have weak glutes. In both cases, you will want to instinctively let your knees fall inwards, but don’t give up! Think about keeping your knees facing straight and you will strengthen your lower body just by correcting your form.
You’re leaning forward.
This is a common mistake made by beginners. Many people who are just beginning their lunging careers tend to lean too far forward when trying to keep their balance. This is due in large part to weak glute muscles that are trying to work alongside strong quadriceps. If you find yourself making this mistake, try stretching your hip flexors and quads before you lunge as well as incorporating more exercises aimed at strengthening your bum.
Once you have the basic lunge down, challenge your muscles and add in a little variation. To really delve into all the variation that is available for lunges, here are some of our favorite suggestions below.
Lunges with a Twist
Twisting lunges are a great way to gauge your lunging abilities as it is a great middle ground to determine if you’re ready to begin to incorporate upper body movement into the lower body movements required by lunging. By simply adding a twist it works your core and obliques as well as your lower body.
To do a twisted lunge, begin as you would for a normal lunge. When you are at the bottom of the movement, extend your arms and rotate your upper body (and your medicine ball) over the front leg as far as you can without compromising your form.
You can begin challenging yourself by holding your arms outstretched and one that gets to be easy, up the intensity by adding a medicine ball to the mix.
This exercise should be done and even amount of times on both legs and can be performed both walking and stationary.
Weighted and Compound Lunges
If you want to keep working on your form but are ready to take your lunging to the next level, try introducing some weight to it.
Or make it just a bit harder still by adding in a bicep curl too.
Adding a dumbbell with just a few pounds to each hand is a surprisingly effective way to work out your upper body while you firm your legs with lunges.
If you want to add even more intensity to your lunges, try using a barbell.
A barbell has the benefit of distributing weight more evenly across your shoulders than a dumbbell. When adding a barbell to your lunges, make sure that you only lift as much weight as you can comfortably maneuver. Otherwise ensure that you have a spotter nearby just in case.
Walking lunges are just like tradition lunges. The only difference is, that instead of pushing off your front foot to return to your starting position, you lift your back leg and step forward to join the front one.
Of course you can make it a little more challenging by using dumbells or barbells or even with a weight held overhead which will really challenge your balance.
A slightly more complicated variation, side lunges increase your flexibility as well as strengthen the muscles differently to the standard lunge.
Just like with a regular lunge, begin with your spine straight and your feet shoulder width apart. However, instead of stepping forward, this time you need to step to the side.
Once you’ve stepped to the side, concentrate on pushing your hips back as if you were going to sit down on a chair and keep your feet flat on the ground. This way when you bend your extended knee, you will be compressing it at the correct angle and keeping your joints safe.
Moving backwards is a great way to challenge both our brains and bodies against the constant forward motion of our lives. A good way to do this is to try out some reverse lunges.
Crunch gym personal training manager Tim Rich recommends reverse lunges (stepping back instead of forward) as an effective alternative to the constant forward motion of our lives and workouts. “We always move forward,” Tim says. “Moving in a reverse direction requires more skill and helps regain some balance and athleticism.”
To do a reverse lunge, begin with the same setup as a normal lunge, but instead of stepping forwards, step backwards. You back leg should bend towards the ground at a 90 degree angle and then pop back up to meet your front leg.
The main benefit of a reverse lunge is that it is much more gentle on your knees than a traditional lunge. Therefore if you have knee problems and are worried about stability during lunges, give this variation a try and see if you can’t work your way into doing a more intense version of a lunge.
And for women it is also a fantastic way to work on that bubble butt
A variation on the reverse lunge is the diagonal lunge. It is very similar to a reverse lunge but rather than stepping straight back, step slightly to the side. For example if you imagine a clock face on the floor around you and you are facing 12 o’clock, then your right foot wants to go back to somewhere between 4 and 5 (or between 7 and 8 for your left foot)
Jumping or Plyometric Lunges
This variation will really have your buns burning and increase your explosive power for many sports. Start in a wide-legged lunge stance and begin to lower as you would if you were going to do a lunge. However, instead of pressing to lift yourself back up to standing, explode powerfully off the ground to jump and switch legs. Make sure land smoothly into a lunge on the other side. Continue alternating legs.
Elevated Lunges or Bulgarian Split Squats
Also known as Bulgarian split squats, this motion is essentially an elevated lunge. As this lunge has your rear foot elevated, it requires you to focus on balance and engages your core to increase the benefits that a normal lunge will give you.
To start an elevated lunge, find an elevated surface like a weight bench and place your rear foot onto the surface. Then hop your front foot forward until your knee is above your ankle. When you’ve done this correctly, you should feel your core engage in order to keep your balance. Keeping your upper body as straight as possible, lower yourself down towards the floor. When you reach the bottom of your lunge, push yourself back up making sure to keep your ankles, knees, and back aligned.
Lunge Jump Burpees
Are you feeling motivated? Why not try to combine several functional exercises into one? Before you try this one, check out how to do a burpee.
Now that you know what you’re in for, you’re going to take it up a notch. Instead of just coming out of a push-up and jumping up once, you’re going to pop yourself off the ground and complete two lunge jumps (sorry for the quality of the video!)
Look intense? It is, but it is also going to give you a great overall workout.
Lunging is one of the best functional exercises out there. It works you lower body in a way that primes it to perform all variety of movements in the real world. So, since this workout is so great, don’t let yourself get bored with it. There are so many different variations of lunges out there that you can keep yourself busy for a long time.
With so many reasons to keep lunging forward in your workouts, make this movement a staple of your exercise routine and see what it can do for you. Is it already a common rotation in your workouts? What is your reason for loving lunges? Comment and share with us. We love to know what keeps people moving forward.