Lunges are one of the best lower-body strengthening exercises.
Lunges strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, hip flexors, and core muscles in a functional movement pattern, as we have to walk and run in a unilateral position much like the lunge in everyday life as well as in many forms of exercise.
But, when planning your workouts you may wonder, how many lunges should I do? Or, how many lunges should I do to build muscle or increase strength?
In this workout guide, we will discuss how to perform lunges, give you variations of lunges you can add to your leg workouts, and ultimately answer your question, how many lunges should I do based on my fitness goals?
Let’s get started!
How Do You Do Lunges?
Before we discuss how many lunges you should do in your workouts depending on your training goals and fitness level, let’s review how to perform lunges.
Note that you can perform lunges as a bodyweight exercise, meaning that you will just be lunging without holding any additional weights.
Bodyweight lunges are a good starting place for beginners, but if you are trying to build muscle or increase strength in your lower body and you have been working out, you should use additional resistance such as dumbbells or kettlebells, or wear a weighted vest.
Here are the steps for doing a basic alternating forward lunge:
How To Perform A Lunge
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold dumbbells at your sides. Beginners can place their hands on their hips for a bodyweight exercise.
- Take a giant step forward with your right foot drop down into a lunge, bending each knee 90°. Your front thigh should hover just above the ground without touching it.
- Press through your foot in front to pull your body back up to the standing position. Bring your front foot back to the starting place as you do so.
- Continue alternating legs, making sure to bend each knee to 90°.
How to Modify Lunges
One of the best things about lunges is the versatility of the exercise.
You can do static forward lunges, which means that you step forward, lunge down, and then power back up and backward to the starting position standing upright before beginning the next rep.You can also do walking lunges, which is a great dynamic warm-up exercise for athletes where you will keep lunging forward as you walk rather than stepping back to the standing position.
In other words, you are traveling forward taking lunging steps rather than regular walking steps.
You can also do:
- Reverse lunges
- Lateral lunges
- Lunges with various types of resistance
- Curtsy lunges
- Compound exercises that incorporate a lunge along with an upper body movement performed simultaneously1Stastny, P., Lehnert, M., Zaatar, A. M. Z., Svoboda, Z., & Xaverova, Z. (2015). Does the Dumbbell-Carrying Position Change the Muscle Activity in Split Squats and Walking Lunges? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(11), 3177–3187. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000976
- Lunges on uneven surfaces like a Bosu ball or a thick foam pad
- Plyometric lunges that involve jumping and then landing in the lunge position
Choosing a variety of types of lunges for different lower body workouts is the best way to work all of the various muscles worked by lunges and create dynamic strength, mobility, or functional range of motion across numerous planes of motion.
Let’s take a look at some of these lunge variations in more detail.
#1: Weighted Lunges
The simplest way to progress lunges or modify lunges for beginners is to add weight or just do bodyweight lunges, respectively.
You can easily hold dumbbells down at your sides while performing lunges to increase the intensity and strengthening benefits for the muscles worked by lunges.
It also becomes more difficult to balance when you are holding weights because you cannot put your arms out at your sides or on your hips, both of which may aid balance.
As a result, weighted lunges will also help increase core strength and stability, along with the strength in your smaller stabilizing muscles in the hips, glutes, and ankles.
#2: Side Lunge
Lateral lunges work your hips (abductors), quads, glutes, and adductors.
- Stand upright with your hands on your hips.
- Step your right leg directly out to the side, shifting your weight towards that side as you bend the right knee. Keep your left knee straight but allow the left foot to turn so that the inside of the foot points down the floor.
- Contract your adductors and glutes to pull your right leg back to the starting point.
- Complete all reps on one side and then switch.
#3: Jumping Lunges
This plyometric exercise is an advanced lunge exercise that builds power and explosive strength while increasing heart rate and burning calories.
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips.
- Jump up, bringing your right foot forward and left foot back and land, dropping into a lunge, bending each knee 90°. Your back knee should hover just above the ground without touching it and your front shin should be perpendicular to the ground.
- Power back up into the air and switch your legs in the air, coming down with the left leg in front.
#4: Deficit Reverse Lunges
You can perform regular reverse lunges which just involve lunging by taking a step backwards rather than forwards. The reverse lunge targets the glutes more than the forward lunge.
This reverse lunge variation is even more challenging because the elevated position of the front leg increases the workload on the front quad.
Here are the steps for this lunge exercise progression:
- Stand upright on a step, BOSU ball (if you have good core strength), or low plyo box.
- Engage your core while you step one foot backward off the box and drop into a deep lunge. Your front knee should be aligned with your toe and your back knee should almost touch the ground.
- Your torso should be tilted forward about 20 degrees by hinging from the hips. Maintain a straight back.
- Push through the heel on the step to return to the starting position.
- Alternate legs.
#5: Curtsy Lunges
This is a difficult lunge variation that works your quads, glutes, hip abductors, adductors, and hamstrings, while also challenging your core.
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with good posture.
- Lift up your right leg and cross it behind your left calf as you lower into a full single-leg squat on the left leg. Thrust your arms forward for a counterbalance.
- Tap the right toe behind and to the outside of your left leg.
- Return it to the starting position as you press back up with only your left leg.
- Complete all of your reps and then switch sides.
How Many Lunges Should I Do – And What Weight – Based On My Fitness Goals?
The number of lunges you should do and the weight to use for lunges depends on your fitness level and training goals.2Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports, 9(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9020032
A good starting place for beginners is two sets of 10-12 reps per leg. Build up to three sets. Once you can do 10 to 12 reps per leg without stopping, you can increase weight.3Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No Time to Lift? Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review. Sports Medicine, 51(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1
If your goal is to increase strength with lunges, use a weight that corresponds to at least 85% of your 1RM, or a weight that you could manage for just 3 to 6 lunges per leg with proper form.
Aim for 4 to 6 sets with at least 90 seconds of rest in between sets.4de Salles, B. F., Simão, R., Miranda, F., Novaes, J. da S., Lemos, A., & Willardson, J. M. (2009). Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 39(9), 765–777.
Focus on ensuring that you are using proper form and maintaining the intensity of the lunge exercise with more weight rather than increasing the number of reps that you do when you are trying to increase strength.
Use enough weight that you can manage all of your reps but that you feel fatigued by the last 1-2 reps of every set.5Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2018). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 51(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001764
To increase muscular endurance with lunges, perform at least three sets of at least 15 reps per leg with no more than 60 seconds of rest in between each set.
Use a weight that is about 65% of your 1RM or less. As you get fitter, do more sets of lunges and reduce the rest in between each set.
Note that these weights refer to the relative percentage of your one-repetition maximum (1RM). You can learn how to determine your 1RM here.
To supplement your lunge workouts, check out our guide to the best posterior chain workout here.
- 1Stastny, P., Lehnert, M., Zaatar, A. M. Z., Svoboda, Z., & Xaverova, Z. (2015). Does the Dumbbell-Carrying Position Change the Muscle Activity in Split Squats and Walking Lunges? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(11), 3177–3187. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000976
- 2Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports, 9(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9020032
- 3Iversen, V. M., Norum, M., Schoenfeld, B. J., & Fimland, M. S. (2021). No Time to Lift? Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review. Sports Medicine, 51(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01490-1
- 4de Salles, B. F., Simão, R., Miranda, F., Novaes, J. da S., Lemos, A., & Willardson, J. M. (2009). Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 39(9), 765–777.
- 5Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2018). Resistance Training Volume Enhances Muscle Hypertrophy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 51(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000001764