Lunges are a great supplement to squats, deadlifts and leg presses and are even a viable standalone exercise. So why do lunges check so many boxes? Good question!

 

  • - Being a unilateral (single leg) exercise, lunges require and develop balance and stability

  • - Lunges activate your outer and inner thighs more than many other leg exercises

  • - They have a great carry-over to running and jumping movements

  • - You can use lunges to identify and correct left-to-right strength imbalances

  • - You don’t need a lot of space, weight, or special equipment for lunges


While regular lunges are awesome, you don’t want to get stuck in the exercise rut of doing the same movement over and over. That’s a good way to get bored and to limit your progress. There is no need to ditch regular lunges forever but you’ll get a lot more benefit from adding some of these great lunge variations to your lower body workouts.
 

 



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1. Lunge against a band

Holding weights in your hands makes lunges more difficult but you can also use resistance bands to make lunges more demanding. Loop a resistance band around a sturdy waist-high anchor and then, with your back to the band, attach it to your waist using whatever means are available e.g. a stretching strap. Step forward to put a little tension in the band. Lunge out and away from the anchor point and then resist the pull of the band as you return to the starting position. The band increases resistance to hip extension which means more butt work for you!


2. Reverse deficit lunge

Reverse lunges emphasize the hamstrings and hips but you can make this great exercise even better by increasing the range of movement.

Stand on a 10-20cm step with your feet together and hands by your sides. Step back and off the step, bend your legs, and lower your knee to the floor. Keep your front shin and torso vertical. Return to the starting position and repeat using the same or opposite leg as preferred. Hold dumbbells in your hands or a barbell across your shoulders to make this exercise more difficult.

 

3. Lunge throughs

Not sure whether to do forward or reverse lunges? Why choose when you can do both! Starting with your feet together, take a large step back and lower your rear knee to within a centimetre of the floor. Then, without pausing, step forward and through into a forward lunge. Immediately step all the way back into another reverse lunge. Continue until you have completed all the desired reps and then change legs.


4. Walking lunge

Almost all lunges provide an opportunity to grab a micro-rest between reps when your feet are together. Walking lunges don’t which is what makes them such a challenging and effective workout. You’ll need to find enough space to do ten or more lunges back-to-back for this one but your efforts will be well-rewarded.

Perform a regular forward lunge but, instead of returning to your normal starting position, immediately step through and into another lunge. Keep going until you have done all your reps for both legs.


5. Lateral lunge

The lateral lunge increases inner thigh activation which makes it a very good exercise if you play multi-directional sports or just want to firm up your adductors.

Stand with your feet around hip width apart and then take a wide step to either side. Land softly and descend down as far as you comfortably can; you can progress to going gradually lower over the course of a few workouts as your mobility and flexibility improve. Your non-working leg should remain straight. Lean forward slightly and simultaneously push your hips back to help with balance and making sure your glutes get a slight but beneficial stretch. Keep the shin of your bent knee vertical. Push off your bent leg to return to the starting position and then do another rep – either to the opposite side or the same side.


6. Lunge jumps

Adding a jump to lunges makes what is normally a fairly moderate intensity exercise very high intensity indeed. This is a great move for developing leg power as well as a rock-hard butt!

Step forward and out into a split stance and then bend your legs. Using your arms for added momentum, jump up and into the air. In mid-flight, switch your legs so you land with leg position reversed. Immediately descend and leap up again to repeat.


7. Forward reaching lunge

Adding a planned forward torso lean increases the tension in your hamstrings and glutes which makes an already good posterior chain exercise even more effective.

Step forward and into a regular lunge but, as you descend, hinge forward from your hips and reach down to touch the floor in front of your toes with your fingertips. Stand back up and repeat on the opposite side. Add some extra resistance by holding a dumbbell in each hand. Do not round your lower back; make sure the forward lean is from your hips.


8. Lunge with under leg pass

This fun variation adds some extra butt-building resistance and challenges your coordination. Holding a medicine ball, step forward and into a lunge. Pass the medicine ball under your leading leg. Pop back up to the starting position and repeat. You can also incorporate the under leg pass into reverse lunges.


9. Curtsy lunge

The curtsy lunge hits your butt hard, especially the outside – the gluteus medius and minimus.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands on your hips. Take a big step back with your left leg, crossing it behind your right. Bend your knees and lower your hips until your right thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your torso upright and your hips and shoulders as square as possible. Return to start and repeat but stepping back with your right leg instead.


10. Reverse lunge to knee lift

This variation not only works your legs and butt, it’ll also get your heart and lungs working too making it an ideal exercise for circuit training and high intensity interval training.

Stand on one leg with your non-supporting knee bent and level with your hip. From this position, swing your non-supporting leg back and descend into a reverse lunge. Pop back up into the one-legged start position and repeat. Do the same number of reps on each leg. Add difficulty by standing on a raised step to increase range of motion.

Lunges are easily one of the best leg exercises around but you don’t have to stick with the plain vanilla forward version. Add some variety to your leg workout with any of these ten lunge variations.


 



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