Lunges are among the best leg exercises in the world along with squats. Training your leg muscles is important not only for gaining strength but also for doing daily activities more effectively. These activities include walking, running and climbing, or coming down of stairs, etc.
Lunges train many muscle groups in your lower body which strengthens your quadriceps (front thighs), hamstring (back thighs) gluteus maxima (hips), and calves. Plus, there are a variety of variations to this exercise that targets different muscles.
Varying the techniques of an exercise allows you to target a particular muscle group or many at the same time. Studies have shown that the dynamic variations of lunges improve your explosive strength and agility.
The most common version of lunges is the forward lunge. It is performed by stepping forward and lowering your body by bending your knees. During this exercise, your lower body muscles work both eccentrically (lengthening) and concentrically (shortening).
Lunges can be done anywhere with just your bodyweight. You can also make it more challenging by adding free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells.
While doing this move, you target one side of your body at a time which eliminates muscle imbalance between both legs and challenges your balance and stability. The exercises which strengthen one side at a time are known as unilateral exercises.
Lunges are performed by athletes and weight trainers in calisthenics or cross-training programs for improving their performance in their sports. Lunges are similar to running the only difference is the reaction force, which makes it excellent for runners. This exercise is also great for preventing injuries or getting back to training after a long break.
Benefits Of Doing Lunges
Now you’re familiar with lunges. Before learning about the right techniques to do exercise, let’s learn about the best benefits that this exercise offers.
1. Strengthens Your Leg Muscles
Doing lunges not only enhances your appearance but also increases your muscle mass to develop strength and endurance in your lower body. Adding this exercise to your workout plan will tone your leg muscles and give your body an aesthetic look.
Try doing some dynamic variations once you get comfortable with the standard exercise. The dynamic variations of lunges activate the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your legs. Fast-twitch muscles contract much faster and give you a boost in performance for a limited time. These muscle fibers help in lifting heavy weights and running faster (sprint).
2. Compound Exercise
Lunges are compound exercises, which means they hit multiple muscle groups and joints at once. By stepping forward and bending your knees, you activate your core, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Your lower back muscles also play a huge role in stabilizing the movement.
Therefore this exercise is great for preventing injuries and toning your muscles. Compound exercises also save you a lot of time as many muscle groups are trained at once thus reducing your effort to do different exercises for a single muscle group.
3. Core Stability
Doing lunges properly will help you to improve your core strength, giving you more stable and well-defined abs. Building a strong core keeps your spine stable which improves your balance and stability. Engaging your core muscles also reduces the risk of lower back injuries and maintains your posture.
A solid and stable core lowers the risk of injuries and improves your posture, which helps in daily movements. Your core is made up of many abdominal muscles like the rectus abdominal, and obliques. These muscles work together to help you do functional movements like bend, stand, twist and turn.
4. Functional Movement
Lunges are performed using one leg at a time, which applies full tension on one side of your body. Training one limb at a time is called unilateral training. This helps in training both sides of your body equally. The divided position required for this exercise is important to promote stability, injury prevention, body control, and effective movement.
The unilateral training of lunges reduces muscle imbalance and builds strength more effectively. This functional movement of the lunges helps in doing everyday activities that use your legs in a unilateral stance. These activities include walking, running, climbing stairs, and jumping.
5. Weight Loss
Lunges are one of the best exercises for weight loss. They work the biggest muscle groups in your lower body, which builds lean muscle and reduces body fat. This can increase your metabolism at rest, which helps you burn more calories and reduce excess weight.
To boost fat burning you can also include lunges in a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine using heavy weights. You can also perform dynamic variations with heavy weights to accelerate weight loss.
6. Balance And Stability
While doing lunges, you work on both sides of your body independently. Since you’re working on one leg at a time, it often makes your body unstable which forces the stabilizing muscles to act. This movement activates your core and back muscles to increase balance, stability, and muscle coordination. Lunges challenge your balance and stability better than other exercises like squats and deadlifts.
The single-leg movement in the lunges improves your athletic performance along with joint stability and control. Doing this exercise regularly may also increase the neurological and muscular demands of your body.
How To Do Lunges
1. Start this exercise by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart. Take one step using your right foot around two feet ahead of your torso, while your other leg is behind. Your foot in front should be planted on the ground. Only the foot behind will rise its heel off the ground. Your torso should be straight and shoulders pulled.
2. With your back straight and chest out, activate your core. Bend both your knees to 90 degrees while lowering your body. Keep this movement going until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower your body towards the ground. During this move, don’t arch your back as it may cause lower back pain or injuries.
3. Hold your position at the bottom for a second. Push in through your front foot to raise your body back to the start. Breathe out as you lift your body to the top. This is one repetition of the lunges.
4. If you’re a beginner try doing 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions. If you’re familiar with this exercise then try challenging your strength by either increasing the repetitions or adding additional weights.
Helpful Tips For Lunges
1. While lowering your body, don’t let your lead knee go past your toes and rear knee touch the ground.
2. While doing performing the exercise, keep your core tight to stabilize your torso. Also, try to keep your hips symmetrical.
3. Place your hands on your torso throughout the movement. This helps in keeping your body stable and upright.
Lunges can be easily modified to create many variations, this makes it more accessible for beginners to choose the easiest one and challenging for the advanced exercisers.
1. Walking Lunges
Walking lunges are a variation of the standard lunge exercise. It is an excellent exercise to target all the major muscle groups of your lower body and improve your balance and core strength. Unlike static lunges, walking lunges is more challenging as you have to keep your body stable and upright while stepping forward between each lunge. You’re also constantly shifting your weight and position while temporarily standing on one leg, which makes this move harder for beginners.
If you have gained some experience with walking lunges then you can make this exercise more challenging by adding additional weights like dumbbells and kettlebells or doing it with a torso twist. Walking lunges are also popular for promoting athletic performance. This exercise is beneficial for runners as it is perfect for warming up your body before a tough training session or race.
How To Do Walking Lunges
1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Place your hands on the side of your body. Before starting, check your posture. Your torso should be upright, core and glutes engaged. Pull your shoulders and look in front.
2. Take a step forward using your right leg and plant it flat on the ground. Shift the weight on your heels. Now, Bend the right knee to lower your body towards the ground. Put your hands on your side, or swing them naturally. Breathe in as you lower your body.
3. Hold the movement when your forward thigh is parallel to the ground. Now, Without moving your right foot, move your left foot forward, repeating the same procedure. Pause as your left foot is parallel to the ground. Repeat this movement while moving forward as you lunge with your legs alternatively.
4. This is one repetition of the walking lunges. If you’re a beginner then try doing 2-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions. If you’ve performed this exercise before then use additional weights like dumbbells and kettlebells to challenge your strength.
2. Reverse Lunges
The reverse lunge is a beginner-friendly variation of the basic lunge exercise. This move is effective for building muscle mass in your thighs, glutes, and calves. When compared with standard lunges, this move puts less stress on your knees while still strengthening your leg muscles. Reverse lunges have less momentum going forward, meaning they require less stability than basic forward lunges.
It’s better to master the reverse lunge before performing the traditional lunges. While doing reverse lunges, it’s easier to go heavier with weights which adds more resistance and promotes muscle building.
How To Do Reverse Lunges
1. Stand tall with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your hips or at your side. Retract your shoulders and engage your glutes.
2. Brace your core and lift your right foot to step backward. While stepping backward with your right foot, keep your left foot flat on the ground. Land your right foot on the ball and keep your heel up.
3. Bend both your knees to lower your body into a lunge position. Keep your core engaged and your torso stable. Lower your back leg until it is close to the ground and the front leg is at a 90-degree angle. It may be helpful to keep your hands at your sides to make sure your torso is stable. Breathe in as you bring your body closer to the ground.
4. Push through the heel of your back foot to raise your body back to standing. Bring your right foot in line with your left foot. Repeat the movement with your other leg. Breathe out as you lift your body back to the start. This is one repetition of reverse lunges. You can perform all the repetitions with one leg and then switch or you can hit both sides alternatively.
5. If you’re a beginner, do 3 sets of 5-12 repetitions. If you’re an advanced exerciser then try challenging your strength by adding additional weights and increasing the sets and repetitions.
3. Curtsy Lunges
Curtsy lunges are an advanced variation of the basic lunge exercise that is great for burning fat from your lower body. This move is one of the best exercises for strengthening your inner thighs and glutes. Curtsy lunges are effective in improving your balance and stability as your legs are very close to each other while doing this exercise. The diagonal movement of this exercise builds strength in your glutes medius. This muscle is not very active during other leg exercises like basic lunges and squats. The gluteus medius is an important muscle for developing your body control and improving your posture.
How To Do Curtsy Lunges
1. Start this exercise from a standing position with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Your chest held high, shoulders pulled back, and arms down at your sides.
2. Keep your weight on your right foot, take a step back and draw a semicircle with your left foot, moving it behind your left foot. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest. Ensure that your torso stays fixed and chest high.
3. Lower your body, by bending your knees at 90-degree angle. Hold the movement when your front thigh is parallel to the floor and your back knee is near the ground. Breathe in as you bring your body towards the ground.
4. Now, slowly lift your body back to the standing position by pushing in through your heels. Breathe out as you raise your body. Bring your left foot back to the starting position. Repeat the movement with your other leg.
5. This is one repetition of the curtsy lunges. If you’re a beginner try doing 2-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions. If you need a challenge then try increasing the repetitions, or adding additional weights by using dumbbells or kettlebells.
4. Lateral Lunges
If you have performed basic lunges then learning lateral lunges is easier. The lateral lunge is a lower body strength training exercise that is a variation of the standard lunge exercises. This move primarily targets the biggest muscles in your legs like the hamstrings and quads. Lateral lunges also train the muscles in your inner thighs and your outer glutes. This exercise puts less stress on your lower back than other lower body exercises like basic lunges and squats. Thought, lateral lunges are more difficult than other variations of lunges since they require a lot of balance and stability.
Performing this exercise regularly can develop your body control and muscle coordination, which are required for doing daily activities. Improving your balance makes it easier to do daily movements like sitting, standing, playing sports, preventing from falling, and better form while working out. During this movement, you step out to the side instead of forward or backward. The lateral movement of this exercise activates your adductors more than other variants of lunges.
How To Do Lateral Lunges
1. Start this exercise in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands in front of your body. Pull your shoulders and keep your back straight.
2. Engage your core and take a step to the side of your body without moving your other leg. Both your feet should be flat on the ground. Your toes should be pointing in the same direction as your head.
3. Bend your outer (stepping) knee as you shift your body towards the outer leg. Keep your torso stable throughout the movement. Hinge slightly in front and keep your shoulders ahead of your outer knee. Breathe in as you lower your body towards the ground.
4. Hold the position when your outer thigh is parallel to the ground or your other leg is fully extended. Return to the standing position by pushing in your outer leg. Breathe out as your lift your body back to the start.
5. This is one repetition of the lateral lunges. If you’re a beginner then master the traditional lunges before doing this exercise as lateral lunges are more challenging. For regular exercisers, do 3-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions of this exercise. You can increase the number of repetitions or add weights to this exercise for challenging your strength.
5. Jumping Lunges
Jumping lunges are a dynamic variation of the standard walking lunge exercise. This exercise adds a plyometric transition to the basic walking lunges. During this movement, you jump high in the air to switch your legs before landing. Jumping lunges are a great lower body exercise that increases the difficulty of the standard walking lunge exercise and challenges your stability. By adding a plyometric jump between each transition not only develops your major lower body muscles but also engages your cardiovascular system. This boosts your heart rate and helps in burning a large number of calories.
If done properly, the jumping lunge will promote muscle growth in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves. The stabilizing muscles in your core and back are also engaged to keep your torso fixed. You can also add this exercise to a high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or a calisthenics program to get maximum benefit. Jumping lunges your muscle coordination, balance, and agility. Doing this exercise regularly can help you in improving your athletic performance in different sports like basketball, volleyball, football, and tennis.
How To Do Jumping Lunges
1. Start this exercise in a standing position with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Pull your shoulders and engage your core. Keep your hands at your side.
2. Step forward using your right foot while keeping your left foot fixed. Bend your knees to sink into a deep lunge. Lean slightly forward and keep your body stable throughout the movement. Breathe in as you lower your body towards the ground.
3. Hold the position when your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Now, explosively raise your body by pushing in through your feet to do a jump. As you jump, bring your feet together and switch your legs before touching the ground. Breathe out as you jump and switch your legs.
4. Repeat the same procedure with your other leg. Don’t lock your knees as it can cause injuries. This is one repetition of jumping lunges.
5. If you’re a beginner try doing 2-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions. If you’re an advanced exerciser then give yourself a challenge by increasing the repetitions or adding additional weights.
Frequently Asked Questions For Lunges
Lunges are one of the best bodyweight exercises to work your lower body muscles. Adding this move to your workout program will build muscle mass in your legs and improve your balance and posture.
People often ask a variety of questions regarding the efficiency and working of this exercise. The most frequently asked questions are answered below.
1. Which Is Better Lunges Or Squats?
Lunges and squats are the two most popular lower body exercises. Both these moves help in building a strong muscle foundation. You can easily add these exercises to your workout as both can be performed anywhere without any equipment. Though both these moves build muscle mass in your lower body, still some differences make one better than the other.
Squats target your quadriceps, glutes, hamstring, calves, and core. It hits the same muscle groups as lunges. But lunges need more muscle coordination and balance. While doing lunges, your front foot takes more load than your back foot. In the case of squats, both your legs take the load equally therefore the muscle activation is different.
But what if you have to target a specific muscle group like working specifically on your glutes, then squats are more likely to benefit you. During squats, you are pushing with both your heels, flat on the ground. So, the hips activation is greater in squats than lunges. However, if you want to specifically focus on your quadriceps then I’ll recommend lunges. In the case of lunges, you are leaning forward and working on one leg at a time. This puts more tension on your thighs which results in better muscle growth in your quadriceps.
2. What Are Lunges Good For?
Lunges are good for building strength and help in toning your lower body muscles. It targets the biggest muscle groups in your legs which boosts your metabolism and burns fat from your body. Lunges also help in improving your balance and stability. Your core also plays a huge role in stabilizing this movement. There are a variety of variations of this exercise like the reverse, walking, jump, and curtsy lunges. Each one of these variants targets a specific muscle group in your lower body.
Lunges promote flexibility in your hip flexor muscles. This muscle is important in doing lower body movement. Training your hip flexors develops agility in your body and improves athletic performance. One of the best benefits of lunges is maintaining muscle symmetry. Doing unilateral exercises like lunges builds strength equally on both sides of your body. This eliminates muscular asymmetries and reduces the risk of injuries.
Lunges strengthen your spine which gives you a proper posture. While doing this exercise, limited stress is on your spine, which makes it flexible and strong.
3. Do Lunges Reduce Belly Fat?
Whether you are trying to build strength in your lower body, increase agility or burn belly fat, lunges are one of the best exercises to achieve your fitness goals. This functional movement can be easily modified to burn a large number of calories. You can also add additional weight using dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells to maximize muscle building and fat burning. Variations like walking or jumping lunges are great for losing weight. A person can burn around 80-100 calories by doing these variations for just 10 minutes.
These variations aren’t as difficult as a cardio exercise like burpees. Jumping lunges are more challenging than other lunge variations. Like all jumping exercises, this exercise also burns more calories due to the rapid movement of your body. The basic jumping lunge is sufficient to burn a ton of calories therefore no additional weights are required.
4. What Muscles Are Worked During Lunges?
The standard lunge exercise primarily targets your quadriceps, hamstring, and glutes. During this exercise, the quadriceps and glutes straighten your knees to help you raise your body from the ground. During this exercise, the quadriceps and glutes straighten your knees to help you raise your body from the ground. Meanwhile, the adductors pull your thighs towards the midline of your body which keeps the movement stable. The hamstring also plays an important role in slowing down the movement as you lower your body. The hamstrings work with your glutes to stabilize your torso and knees.
While lunges primarily target your lower body muscles, the secondary muscles are activated to stabilize your body. This includes your abs, obliques, and lower back muscles. In lunges, there are different types of lunge variations to target a specific muscle group. For instance, forward, reverse, and side lunges have different main muscles to train.