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Let's Lunge: How To Properly Do A Lunge

Show your legs some love by learning how to properly do a lunge, plus three other lunge variations for a strong lower body.

Lose yourself in the lunge. From the rhythmic unilateral and lateral movements to your heart beating stronger with each rep, lunges are a powerhouse compound exercise that activates several of the muscles in your lower body and core at once. They are a fun way to push yourself to enhance your strength and balance, taking your leg-day workouts to new heights.  
Learn from Portland-based fitness instructor Tiffany Millikan as she breaks down proper lunge form and all the benefits this exercise has to offer. “Lunges are a great way to strengthen all of the big muscles in your legs,” said Millikan. “Because lunges are a unilateral exercise, you’ll find that they help balance the body by building strength in the stabilizing muscles that surround your joints and strengthen your abdominals.” 

How do you properly lunge?

  • Keep your feet hip-width apart, to avoid instability and wobbling to one side. 
  • Engage your core and keep your back straight for stability during the entire movement. 
  • Take a big step forward, a larger step than you would when walking, to keep your weight evenly distributed and to help avoid too much joint compression in the front knee. 
  • Focus on a point at eye level so you don’t overextend your neck.  
  • Slow down, remember it’s quality over quantity. 
Whether you’re performing bodyweight lunges or learning how to do lunges with weights, it all starts with proper lunge form. 

Should your knee touch the floor in a lunge?

Whether you are performing a standard lunge or other lunge variations, your knee should never touch the floor when doing this exercise. “Finding depth in a lunge has more to do with mobility in your hips and ankles than it has to do with strength,” said Millikan. “The most important thing to consider when doing a lunge is keeping your joints in alignment.” 

Learn to Lunge: Four Lunge Variations

Four Lunge Variations We’ll Cover:

1. Standard Lunge 
2. Reverse Lunge with Dumbbells 
3. Side Lunge 
4. Walking Lunge 
All these moves target your core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. So get in alignment, connect with your inner leg-day guru, and get ready to lunge into the transcendent world of good feelings, strength, and high-levels of energy. 

Standard Lunge

About this move: The standard lunge works all plains of your legs. This move will make you a leg-day legend. 
How to do a lunge:
  1. Start in a standing position with your feet under your hips and your arms at your sides.  
  2. Place your hands on your hips and step your right leg forward and allow your left knee to lower towards the ground.  
  3. Bend your knees to approximately 90 degrees as you lower yourself. Remember to keep your torso upright, hips square and core engaged.  
  4. Lengthen your back leg to rise and then drop that knee right back down towards the ground. This is one rep. 
  5. To return to the starting position, forcefully push off from your front leg to bring your feet back together.  

Reverse Lunge w/Dumbbells

About this move: Want to gaze at your glutes and be proud of your gains? This is the move for you as you'll feel a dominant burn in your glutes with this move because of the split-stance position.
How to do a reverse lunge: 
  1. Stand with your feet directly underneath your hips and a dumbbell in each hand.  
  2. Take a slight bend in your knees and take a big step backward with your right leg, keeping your hips square to the front and your pelvis neutral.  
  3. Lower yourself until both legs are bent at 90-degree angles, keeping your chest tall and core engaged.  
  4. Hold for a beat. 
  5. Draw your energy into your front foot, push into it to rise, then lower the knee back down towards the ground. This is one rep. 
  6. When you’re finished, push through your front foot to return to start.  

Side Lunge

About this move: Ignite those hip muscles with the side lunge. This move works your outer and inner hip stabilizing muscles and is a fantastic way to add lateral movement into your life.  
How to do a side lunge: 
  1. Stand tall with your hands on your hips. 
  2. With a soft bend in your knees, step out wide to the side with your right foot, planting your foot so your toes point forward. 
  3. Bend your right knee to lunge and hold, keeping your left foot firmly planted on the ground. Your hips and right knee should point forward, with your weight mostly on your right foot. 
  4. Push through your right foot to stand tall and then come right back down. This is one rep. 
  5. To get out of this move, push through your right foot and stand all the way back up through center. Repeat on the other side. 

Walking Lunge

About this move: Walk into leg day like a boss. This move is a highly functional exercise that replicates the walking you do every day.  
How to do a walking lunge: 
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. With your hands on your hips, step your right leg forward and allow your left knee to lower towards the ground. 
  3. Bend both knees and lower your back knee toward the floor. Stop just before it touches down.  
  4. Push into your right foot and stand up.  
  5. Step your left leg forward and allow your right knee to lower towards the ground. 
  6. Push through your left foot and stand all the way up. 
  7. This is one rep.  
  8. Finish your set by bringing your back foot to meet your front foot on the final lunge. 

The Art of the Lunge

An exercise that promotes awareness within the body, lunges encourage you to notice how each side of your body feels and performs. “When we work two-sided postures like lunges, our mind is able to collect so much information about what might be dominant in our body,” said Millikan. “Lunges increase our awareness of where we hold tension, which side of our body we tend to place more pressure on when standing, and how we can create more total-body balance.” 
A functional exercise that prepares you for the movements you make every day, lunges are the ultimate tough love leg day exercise. From building strength to increasing balance and stability within the body, lunges are the perfect exercise to add to your fitness routine if you want to see and feel a difference in your life and body. Be consistent when beginning your lunge journey and open to improvement.  
“Consistency trumps hard workouts every time,” said Millikan. “Movement is never wasted, and you are so wildly capable. Keep showing up for yourself.”