How to Do Lunges Correctly For a Stronger Lower Body

Fitness

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How to do lungesIf you’ve done a strength workout before, there’s a good chance it involved lunges, especially if it was focused on your lower body. Lunges are a staple in the fitness world and have lots of benefits: they engage all the muscles in your lower body, and they’re a great way to strengthen unilaterally (working one side of the body) as opposed to bilaterally. Unlike some exercises, there are many different types of lunges and lunge modifications, which prevents you from getting bored of the same repetitive movement.

But while lunges are a fitness standby, they can be difficult to master. Keeping your back straight and core strong while lowering both knees to a 90-degree angle takes a strong mind-muscle connection and a lot of practice. Like any move, performing lunges properly is key for getting all their benefits, and avoiding injury too.

If you’re worried about performing lunges with proper form, or struggle to keep your balance, don’t sweat yet. POPSUGAR spoke with three trainers to learn all about properly performing lunges. We also covered the different types of lunges and lunge modifications to make sure this move has a place in your workout, no matter what your fitness goals are.

What Muscles Do Lunges Work?

“Lunges are a lower body exercise that targets several muscle groups in a single rep,” says Ariel Belgrave, CPT, Under Armour Athlete. You’ll feel it in your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves primarily. But lunges also call on your core muscles for stability, says Belgrave.

While some suspect that lunges are bad for your knees, that myth has been debunked, and lunges are actually recommended for their ability to strengthen all the muscles around the knee.

Lunges Benefits

Naturally, since lunges target the lower body, they’re a great way to improve lower body strength, as well as improve your stability and balance, says Trudie German, NASM-certified trainer, menopause wellness coach, and host of the Empowering Women in Menopause podcast. Belgrave adds that lunges are also an extremely functional movement: “Lunges mimic movements we often do in our daily life, like stepping forward or climbing stairs. Adding lunges to your routine can improve your ability to perform these functional movements more efficiently and with less risk of injury,” she says.

Since they’re a unilateral exercise (working one side of your body at a time), lunges can also improve your balance and stability, says Belgrave. This is because lunges require a lot of control and coordination between your hips, knees, ankles, and core. Lunges are a great way to strengthen your core, which is necessary for great posture and will help with stability and strength overall, says Brittne Babe, BS, CNS, CPT, CHHP.

Lastly, lunges are a versatile exercise that you can do almost anywhere, whether you’re at home, at the gym, or in a park, Belgrave says. This makes them a great and easy addition to your fitness routine.

How to Perform a Lunge

Forward lunges and reverse lunges are the traditional move that we picture when we think of lounges. Below, Belgrave’s step-by-step guide to both exercises:

How to do a forward lunge

  • Step forward with one leg.
  • Lower your hips until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Try to keep your lower knee from touching the ground, then give a powerful push of your front leg to return to a standing position.

Reverse lunges employ the same movement but in reverse, says Belgrave. Reverse lunges reduce stress on the knees, compared to forward lunges, and also strengthen the posterior chain, she adds. They’re also a great way to strengthen your hamstrings, according to Brittne.

How to do a reverse lunge:

  • Step backward with one leg.
  • Lower your hips until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Once you sink down, step forward into a standing position, and repeat.

Types of Lunges

There are multiple ways that you can modify lunges; enough to keep them in your fitness routine forever without getting bored of them! Belgrave described several of the most common variations.

  • Side lunges: Side lunges call for a lateral step to one side, bending the knee that you stepped with and keeping the other leg straight. Belgrave says that this variation works your inner and outer thighs, enhances hip mobility, and improves your lateral stability.
  • Walking lunges: Walking lunges require a bit more space than traditional forward or reverse lunges, but are a great way to work both sides at once. With walking lunges, rather than returning to the starting position, you step forward with your other leg and move across the room in a lunging motion. Belgrave recommends this move if you’re looking to boost your cardiovascular endurance, challenge your balance, and get a full-leg workout while keeping a dynamic pace.
  • Curtsy lunges: Curtsy which are exactly what they sound like: you cross one leg behind the other as you lower into the lunge. This move engages the glutes from a unique angle and improves lateral stability, says Belgrave. (It will also prepare you for 2024 “Bridgerton” watch parties.)

Lunge Modifications

Modifications are a great way to meet your specific fitness goals with lunges. Generally, you can modify most lunges by adding dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells or even the TRX.

If you’re looking for a high-impact variation to get your heart rate up fast, you can also try jumping lunges, Brittne says. If you’re not ready for weights, you can also modify by lowering very slowly, holding the lunge at the bottom, adding a pulse, or elevating your front leg with a yoga block or step, says German. Belgrave also suggests taking a longer step forward or backward to increase the depth of your lunge, which engages muscles more intensely and challenges your balance. If you’re focusing on glutes, you’d want to opt for Bulgarian Split Squat Lunges or elevated lunges, says Brittne.

With so many different types of lunges out there and so many different ways to modify them, there’s a lunge that’s perfect for every fitness routine.

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