You may not realize it, but everything we do—from getting up off the ground to climbing stairs to playing any sport—puts us in a lunge position of sorts. To truly make your body more efficient, you need to reinforce that movement. The only way to do that is to show the lunge some love by, well, lunging. A lot. Work in any of these lunge variations during your next training session, either as one-off moves for mobility work or as a circuit. You’ll improve your movement and add slabs of mass to your legs.
HOW TO DO IT
Use this collection of lunges as a warmup, a mid-training challenge, or as a way to finish off your workout. All these exercises will increase your range of motion and activate muscles that may have collected some dust over the years.
- With each lunge, use your hands as “drivers” for each movement, bringing them forward, dumbbells or no dumbbells.
- Start off without using any weight to get a feel for the movement. As you gain confidence, you can add light dumbbells.
- When you descend into each lunge, your goal should be to touch your hands (or dumbbells) to the ground on each side of your lunge foot—if you can’t quite get to the ground, aim to get on either side of the ankle. If that’s too difficult, aim for the knee.
- For mobility: Do one set of five reps for each move. For hypertrophy: Perform the entire circuit two to three times through.
This variation loads the groin and glutes differently than the standard lunge and forces your body to balance and stabilize in a new plane of motion. Do these if you’re looking to move better or work some muscle groups you don’t normally hit.
DO IT: Lunge laterally, keeping your stationary leg straight. Extend the dumbbells to either side of lunge foot. Drive the hands and body back to the starting position.
This balancing act of a lunge is probably the most difficult variation on the list, but the lack of stability will also recruit more muscle fibers in your quads and core as you fight to not fall over.
DO IT: Lunge forward, but then cross the lead foot over and across the midline of your body. Extend your arms toward the side of your lead foot. Then drive the hands and body back to the starting position.
This one will take some getting used to, as you’re essentially combining a reverse lunge and a lateral lunge. However, the hammy and glute gains are worth it.
DO IT: Take a long stride to the side and back—think diagonally—and open your hips to gain width and depth to your movement. As your lunge foot hits the ground, extend your arms and reach your hands on either side of the lunge foot. Drive the hands and body back to the starting position.
This lunge is not a “lunge” in the traditional sense. In fact, it has more in com- mon with a single-leg Romanian deadlift, but it makes the list due to the immense posterior chain development it provides.
DO IT: Take a short step back. (The toes of your back foot should be at the heel of your stationary foot.) With a slight lean toward your straight leg, hinge at your hips and extend your arms, reaching your hands toward either side of your forward foot. After loading the hamstring and lightly touching the ground with the dumbbells, hinge back up to the starting position.
This is your standard front lunge, which hits your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and hip flexors.
DO IT: Take a long stride straight ahead with one leg. As your lunging foot hits the ground, extend your arms and reach your hands toward the lead lunge foot. Load the weight on the lead leg as you drive the hands and body back to the starting position.
BY CHRIS GRAY, M.S., C.S.C.S