- Fitness Tips -

Break It Down: The Lunge

Fine-tune your form to strengthen your glutes, quads — and, yes, even your knees.

Man performing a lunge

The list of reasons to do lunges is almost as long as your arm — although the move mostly benefits your legs.

Whether you do forward, reverse, lateral, curtsy, jumping, or rotational lunges, this exercise strengthens the muscles from your waist down, including your glutes, quads, and calves. 

Moreover, these moves can help build stability in your core and back, as well as around key joints like the hips, knees, and ankles. Lunges can also increase foot strength and improve your overall balance and stability. 

Many people avoid doing lunges, however, because they feel unsteady or worry about hurting their knees or lower back. Yet, by learning to perform this powerful move with proper form, you can head off these sometimes-painful annoyances during training — and over the long term.

These tips will help you tidy up your technique so you can reap the rewards of this effective lower-body move. 

  1. Stand with your feet about hip width apart. 
  2. Step forward with one foot, keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips. 
  3. Allow both knees to bend, with your back knee hovering just above the floor. (Adjust the length of your stride as needed.) 
  4. Keep your front knee in line with your middle toe. Take care not to relax the back leg at the bottom of the move.
  5. Reverse the movement by pressing through your heel and stepping your front foot back to the starting position.
  6. Complete the desired number of reps, and repeat on opposite side.

Tips

  • Keep your hands in front of you or on your hips for balance. If you’re using added weight, support the weight with your hands. 
  • Brace your abs to keep an upright posture and protect your lower back. 
  • Avoid letting your front knee turn inward; engage your hip and butt muscles. 
  • Widen your stance if you feel unstable — it shouldn’t feel like you’re on a tightrope. 
  • Squeeze your glutes throughout the movement, particularly as you press through your front foot.
WEB EXTRA!

Modify the Move: 5 Lunge Variations

Reverse Lunge

Man doing a reverse lungePhotos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Robert Clark
  • Stand with feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step backward with one foot.
  • Allow both knees to bend until they form 90-degree angles. (Adjust the length of your stride as needed to accomplish this.)
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe of that leg. Your back knee can graze the floor, but take care not to relax at the bottom of the move.
  • Reverse the movement by stepping your rear foot back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on both sides.

Lateral Lunge

man doing a lateral lungePhotos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Robert Clark
  • Stand with feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step to the side with one foot.
  • Push your butt back to allow the knee of the lead leg to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle. (Adjust the length of your stride as needed to accomplish this.)
  • Keep the bent knee in line with the middle toe of that leg. Your other leg will be straight.
  • Reverse the movement by stepping your lead leg back to the starting position.
  • Complete desired number of reps, and repeat on opposite side.

Curtsy Lunge

man doing a curtsy lungePhotos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Robert Clark
  • Stand with feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step your right foot back and to the left, allowing the front (left) knee to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle.
  • Allow both knees to bend, but keep your hips and shoulders squared to avoid wrenching your body.
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe. Your back knee can graze the floor, but take care not to relax at the bottom of the move.
  • Reverse the movement by stepping your rear (right) foot back to the starting position.
  • Complete desired number of reps, and repeat on opposite side.

Rotational Lunge

Man doing a rotational lungePhotos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Robert Clark
  • Stand with feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step forward with one foot. Simultaneously, rotate your upper body toward the front leg.
  • Allow both knees to bend until they form 90-degree angles.
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe of that leg.
  • Reverse the movement by stepping your front foot back to the starting position, realigning your torso to once again face forward.
  • Complete desired number of reps, and repeat on opposite side.

Jumping Lunge

man doing a jumping lungePhotos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Robert Clark
  • Begin by lunging forward, allowing both knees to bend until they form 90-degree angles.
  • Brace your abs and squeeze your glutes, then extend your knees as you jump into the air. Mid-jump, swap legs so your previously back leg is now in front.
  • Land softly and with control, lowering yourself until your knees form 90-degree angles and the front knee tracks over the middle of the foot.
  • Repeat, alternating sides with each jump to complete desired number of reps.

, RKC, is an Experience Life senior editor.

Photos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Robert Clark

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