Lunges are a single-leg bodyweight movement that are deceptively simple, highly effective and can be done literally anywhere (e.g. the living room, beach, by your desk, on a plane, etc.).
Coach Tor breaks down the essentials for this foundational exercise so you can reap the rewards ensure you’re doing more good than harm.
What is a lunge?
There are a host of lunge variations out there, however, in this article, we’re sticking to the classic forward lunge. This compound unilateral exercise – that’s sports talk for a multi-joint movement that focuses on one side of the body at a time – demands a great deal of mobility, balance and core strength all at once.
Forward lunges are one of the most effective lower body workout routines, employing and sculpting your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles; while your abs and lower back are called into action for stability.
How to do lunges right
As mentioned above, we are sticking to the forward lunge today. Here is how to perform the movement:
- Stand with feet hip-width apart
- Take a large step forward with one leg
- Keep the majority of your weight on your front foot as you lower your hips, keeping the front foot flat and back heel lifted
- Descend until your rear knee almost touches the floor and the front knee is stacked directly above the ankle, creating 90° bend in both knees
- Drive through the heel of your front foot and push yourself back up to your starting position
Coach Tor’s Lunge Do’s and Don’ts
When you are executing lunges, there are some cues to keep in the back of your mind:
- Do take a big step forward (a larger step than you would when walking)
- Do keep your feet hip-width apart, to avoid walking a tightrope and wobbling to one side
- Do engage your core and keep your back straight for stability during the entire movement
- Do use your arms for extra balance by holding them out to your sides if needed
- Do keep neck neutral by focusing on a point at eye level
As you perfect your lunge, there are also some things to watch out for. When lunging forward:
- Don’t let your knee extend beyond the toes of your leading leg
- Don’t let your rear knee rest on the ground (do hover just above the ground)
- Don’t continue if any noticeable knee pain arises before or during the exercise
- Don’t lean backwards, forwards or hyperextend your neck
Tip: when descending, focus on maintaining control by really flexing your core and leg muscles to control the descent.
Start slow and steady
If you don’t feel comfortable doing lunges fear not, you’re not alone. Lunges can be a tad intimidating as there’s a lot to take into account, including flexibility and balance. But, don’t worry, there’s tons of room for progression and, like most movements the more often you do them, the more you’ll improve with time. Use your 8fit app to learn different lunge progressions like standing next to a wall for added support.
Another great tip for beginners is to start by taking smaller steps forward, this will decrease the range of motion (depth) then from there increase the distance of your forward step and go as low as your mobility will allow. The more you practice the more comfortable you’ll feel performing them.
Still finding lunges challenging? Then dial it back and revisit the basics and build-up/refine your squats. Why? Well, they use the same muscle groupings but are considerably easier don’t require the same amount of strength, mobility, and balance as a lunge. Once you can squat to 90°, then a satisfying deep lunge is just around the corner.
Squats are a great alternative exercise. Any variation works, but best to start with shallow squats or wall squats. Otherwise step-ups, glute bridges and hamstring curls (on a weight machine) should do the trick.
Harder lunge variations
As you progress through your main fitness program on the 8fit app, you’ll be introduced to different types of lunges. Here are some harder lunge variations you might encounter:
- Walking lunges
- Overhead lunges
- Weighted lunges
- Weighted walking lunges
- Jumping lunges
- Bulgarian split squats
Keep in mind that whether you’re just starting off or a seasoned fitness veteran coming back from time off or injury, start small, pay attention to proper form and build up the depth of your lunge gradually. Slow and steady wins the race.