Whether you’re working on weight loss or building strength, you’ve definitely done at least one variation of a lunge! A popular functional exercise, it’s usually associated with lower-body workouts. But there’s more to this movement than just strengthening your legs. 

Lunges engage the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, along with the back and abdominal muscles too! 

With the movement putting so many muscle groups to work, ⁠it goes without saying that adding them to your regular workout plan can help you in more ways than one. But first things first, let’s get down to the basics and learn everything we need to about this functional movement. Fitness Expert, Anuj Kumar, takes us through it all.

What Are Lunges?

In the context of fitness, a lunge is any action that involves the movement of one leg while the other remains stationary. The motion of the free leg can be in any direction⁠—forward, backwards, sideways, or across. 

The lunging movement comes naturally to humans. We use variations of it in daily life⁠—while we walk, climb stairs, or tie our shoelaces. Our bodies use lunges for several activities that require balance, strength, and stability. 

Benefits Of Lunges

Performing lunges and including them in your workout regimen can have several benefits. Let’s look at how it can help:

Improves balance and stability 

As lunges are a single-leg movement exercise, they require you to work independently on each side of your body. This trains your muscles to develop balance,joint stability and coordination. 

Minimises risk of injury

Lunges often feature in rehabilitation plans for those recovering from any form of injury. The stability-improving and muscle-strengthening nature of lunges helps the body handle heavy loads efficiently. This minimises risk of injury in the long run.

Enables hip flexibility 

There are very few movements that engage your hip flexors. Lunges are one of them.  Lunges also enhance joint strength and improve your form for other exercises like squats and deadlifts.

Enhances muscle growth

Lunges, being unilateral exercises, add challenge to your strength workouts and engage several muscles in your legs, backs, and abdomen. So if you’re looking to grow your muscles, especially in your lower body, lunges are the way to go!

Supports weight loss

If you’re familiar with muscle training for weight management, you know that muscle-building is an efficient⁠—and smart⁠—way⁠ to burn fat! Lunges target large muscle groups, making them a great exercise for weight loss! 

Boosts alignment and symmetry

Lunges can help you to correct imbalances and misalignments in your body to make it more symmetrical. For eg: If you have one side less strong or flexible, then you can spend a bit of extra time on this side so that you don’t overuse the dominant side.

The Right Way to Do a Basic Lunge

There are many lunge variations that you can explore. But before you do, there’s one popular and basic form that you must master: the forward lunge. 

Step 1: Keep your feet hip-width apart

Step 2: Take a big step forward. You should now have one leg forward and the other back

Step 3: Ensure the forward foot is flat on the ground while your hind heel is off the ground

Step 4: Lower yourself as you bend your forward knee to approximately 90 degrees, while keeping your core engaged throughout

Step 5: Push yourself back on your feet to step one and repeat

Step 6: Alternate with your other leg too

Pro tip: If you find stationary forward lunges confusing or awkward, try walking lunges! 

Lunge Variations to Try

#1 Dumbbell lunge

When you’ve perfected your forward lunge, this variation adds more challenge to it.

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with feet apart
  • Take a big step forward and bend your front knee till your front thigh is parallel to the ground (like you do with a forward lunge)
  • Bring yourself up from lunge position and repeat
  • Alternate sides

#2 Barbell front rack forward lunge

This is a weighted variation of the forward lunge using barbells. 

  • Hold your barbell at the shoulders
  • Keep your feet hip-width apart
  • Take a huge step forward and move to a lunge and repeat
  • Alternate sides

#3 Lateral Lunge

Unlike the forward lunge, this variation requires you to move sideways rather than forward. 

  • Start with your feet hip-width apart and take a big step sideways. 
  • Slowly lower your hip to one side while keeping both your heels intact on the 
  • ground⁠⁠—the movement must be led by your hips and not your knee
  • Ensure that your stationary leg is still and knees, unbent
  • Pause in the final position for a while for a more effective lunge
  • Push yourself back up to position 1

#4 Curtsy Lunge 

Named after the formal greeting style, curtsy lunge involves a diagonally backward movement of one leg.

  • Keep your legs apart as wide as your hips
  • Take a big step backward, crossing it behind your stationary leg
  • Get back to position 1 and repeat the motion with the alternate leg

#5 Reverse Lunge to Knee Raise 

This two-part movement involves moving your leg backwards and then bringing the same leg forward towards your chest.

  • Start with your legs slightly apart
  • Take a big step backwards and lower your knee to the floor while raising your heel from the ground and balancing your hind leg on your toes 
  • Push yourself up but instead of resting your moving leg on the floor, raise it towards your chest at 90 degrees
  • Bring your leg back to the resting position
  • Your stationary leg will be intact throughout, with your feet flat on the floor
  • Alternate the motion with your other leg

#6 Forward lunge to knee drive

Very similar to the previous variation, this movement involves a forward lunge, followed by a knee raise using your other (previously stationary) leg.

  • Lunge forwards 
  • Push yourself back to standing position
  • Raise the previously stationary leg up to your chest at a 90 degree angle
  • Rest your leg and go back to standing with your legs hip-width apart
  • Alternate sides

#7 Reverse lunge to squat

As the name suggests, this variation consists of two exercises: lunges and squats. 

  • Do two reverse lunges on either legs
  • Follow it up with a squat
  • Make sure that your feet are hip-width apart every time you’re back to standing position

Some Tips To Keep In Mind

  • Ensure your front knees don’t exceed your toes⁠
  • Don’t raise your front heel off the ground
  • Keep your back straight and don’t lean forward. This will keep your core engaged too
  • Don’t let your rear knee touch the ground but go as low as you can 

The Bottom Line

The physical benefits of doing lunges may extend into other areas of your life, giving you more strength and confidence. Get the form down correctly before you move on to more challenging variations, and modify as necessary.

Even if significant weight loss isn’t your goal, you may find that your legs and core are more toned. Base your accomplishments on how you feel and remember to take the time to rest and appreciate your efforts.

Jan 5, 2022

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