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Lunges Explained In Detail + 6 Variations To Try

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A lunge is a fundamental exercise in most strength training programs due to its exceptional benefits. It is a unilateral exercise that mainly works your lower body, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core. 

A reverse lunge.

How To Do A Basic Lunge 

Before we get into our lunge variations to spice up your workout routine, let’s look at how to do a basic reverse lunge. 

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up and proud, core engaged, and shoulders back, looking straight ahead. 
  2. Take a big step back with your right foot, placing the ball of your foot on the floor behind you. 
  3. As you take this step, bend both knees until they reach 90 degrees. Your right knee will be just above the ground, and your left thigh will parallel the floor. 
  4. Push off your back foot and return to the starting position.

To ensure your technique is just right, here are some tips for performing the perfect lunge: 

  • When lunging, focus on a downward movement, not a forward movement. This will ensure that your front knee will not extend past your toes. 
  • If stepping straight back is causing you instability, you may open your back leg out to the side a bit to help with balance. Just ensure your back knee is not twisted and facing the floor head-on.
  • Your back knee should not touch the ground but hover over it.
  • Keep your front knee facing forward and aligned with your front toes, and do not allow your knee to collapse inward or twist.

Now that you have your basic lunge instructions clear, let’s look at why we should add lunges into our exercise routines:

Benefits of Lunges 

Lunges are a compound, functional exercise essential not only for athletes but for everyone as they assist with making movements of everyday tasks more manageable.

They are also unilateral exercises, meaning one leg is worked simultaneously compared to both legs. An example of a bilateral exercise where both legs are worked in unison to contract the muscles would be a basic squat.

One of the most essential benefits of unilateral exercises is that they work each side separately, correcting muscle imbalances that you may have. 

Most of us have a dominant side, and performing unilateral exercises can assist us in evening out our strength in each limb. When performing a lunge, you don’t have the help of your dominant side to compensate for a potential lack of strength on the other.

Let’s take a look at our list of the most prominent benefits of lunges: 

A lunge with an overhead press.

Lunges: 

  • Help prevent lower back pain by strengthening muscles in the core. 
  • Improve ability to perform daily activities such as climbing stairs, getting up off the floor, and walking in general. 
  • Improve hip, ankle, and knee mobility due to the extensive range of motion.
  • Improve proprioception.
  • Protect your joints by strengthening surrounding muscles, decreasing your risk of injury. 

6 Lunge Variations 

Including different variations of exercises in your routine will make for well-rounded workouts and a strong, functional body.

Each variation has particularities where specific muscles and movements will be emphasized more than others.  

Let’s take a look at six of our favorite lunges variations: 

#1: Lateral Lunge

As mentioned before, switching up your lunge variations will ensure you are working a variety of different muscles. In this case, the lateral lunge, or side lunge, creates more emphasis on your adductors due to stepping out to the side.

  1. Stand tall with your feet together, chest up, and shoulders back, looking straight ahead, hands clasped at your chest.
  2. Take a big step to your left, hinge forward at the hips, and sit back as you would sit back in a chair, bending your left knee into a lunge position.
  3. Push off your left foot and shift your weight back to the center. 
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Note: For this variation, you can add resistance once you have mastered the bodyweight version with proper form and mobility. You can add dumbbells, kettlebells, or a resistance band to increase the difficulty and increase strength gains. 

#2: Walking Lunge 

For this variation, you can also add weight once you have perfected the bodyweight version. 

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up, and shoulders back, looking straight ahead. 
  2. Engage your core and take a big step forward with your right foot, placing your foot on the floor in front of you. 
  3. As you take this step, bend both knees until they reach 90 degrees. Your left knee will be just above the ground, and your right thigh will parallel the floor. 
  4. Push off your right foot and return to your starting position. 
  5. Repeat the same lunge beginning with your left foot, always moving forward. 
  6. Alternate sides for the desired amount of reps. 

Note: To increase difficulty with this variation, you can do these walking lunges in reverse. Reverse walking lunges help improve your balance, coordination, and proprioception and aren’t just a workout for your body but for your mind. 

#3: Curtsy Lunge 

Due to the distinct movement of curtsy lunges, they will give your hip abductors and glutes an extra boost.

  1. Stand tall with your feet together, chest up, and shoulders back, looking straight ahead. 
  2. Take a big step diagonally back with your right foot, bending your knees and lowering your right knee to the floor.
  3. Push off your right foot and return to the starting position. 
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

#4: Reverse Alternating Lunge With Overhead Press

Let’s get in a total-body workout with this next variation by adding upper-body work.

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up, and shoulders back, holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level, palm facing in. 
  2. Take a big step back with your left foot, placing the ball of your foot on the floor behind you. 
  3. As you take this step, bend both knees until they reach 90 degrees. Your left knee will be just above the ground, and your right thigh will parallel the floor. 
  4. In your lunge position, push the dumbbells overhead, elbows extending and close to your ears.
  5. Return the dumbbell to shoulder height as you push off your back foot and return to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat on the other side, alternating for the desired number of reps.

#5: Jumping Lunge

Time for some plyometrics! Plyometrics build power and strength and will also work your reaction time as you need to immediately launch off the floor for each repetition. 

This variation will not only provide you with all of our mentioned benefits but also get your heart rate up for a great cardio workout.

When performing any high-impact exercise, such as plyometrics, be sure to land softly on the balls of your feet to protect your joints.

Also, never sacrifice form and technique for speed. Perform the exercise as quickly and explosively as possible while keeping good posture and form.

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up, and shoulders back, looking straight ahead.
  2. Jump your left leg forward and right leg back into your basic lunge position, knees at 90 degrees. 
  3. As soon as you hit your lunge position, blast off the floor and switch your legs mid-air to lunge on the other side. You want to change sides quickly and powerfully without losing your technique. 
  4. Alternate for the desired number of reps.

Note: If you need to pause between each rep, you can lunge, jump and have your feet meet together for a quick second to regroup in the middle, and then jump lunge to the other side. Once you feel more comfortable, perform this lunge variation without pause.

#6: Forward Lunge With Rotation 

This variation gives us more core work with the rotation. You can perform this variation with your body weight or add weight as we did in our video. A kettlebell, dumbbell, or even a jug of water will work. 

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, chest up, and shoulders back. Look straight ahead, holding a kettlebell against your chest with your elbows together.
  2. Take a big step forward with your right foot, placing the ball of your foot on the floor in front of you. 
  3. As you take this step, bend both knees until they reach 90 degrees. Your right knee will be just above the ground, and your left thigh will parallel the floor. 
  4. As you step forward, engage your core and rotate your torso to your right, holding the kettlebell against your chest.
  5. Rotate back to the center and return to your starting position.
  6. Alternate sides. 
  7. Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

You are definitely ready to take your next leg day with our lunge variations! 

If you are looking to add even more variety to your gym sessions, check out our other exercise articles, complete with step-by-step instructions and videos just like this one: 

The Plank Explained In Detail + 6 Variations 

The Glute Bridge Explained In Detail + 6 Variations 

The Wall Sit Explained + 8 Variations

Squats Explained in Detail + 6 Variations

A person doing a squat.
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Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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