September 29, 2019 at 12:00PM by CWC
“Lunges are effective, efficient, and dynamic,” says Angie Miller, master instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). “Lunges work multiple muscles and joints in different planes of motion, and depending on the type [or variation] of lunge, you can change the demand placed on your body,” she says. The two biggie muscle groups challenged: glutes and quads. (I found you, Ms. New Booty!)
Thing is, to get the most out of any move, you have to execute it correctly. And, just because a lunge seems simple (and, really it is), doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. That’s why we asked Miller for her how-to so you can crush the lunge on the next leg day.
How to do a basic lunge
1. Start with your feet pointing straight ahead, knees straight, torso long and extended, and hips facing forward. Shoulders should be down and back, ears in line with shoulders, and keep your head in a neutral position. Hands may be placed on hips.
2. Step forward with one foot.
3. Bend both knees, inhale, and lower the body to approximately 90 degrees (until your front thigh is parallel to the floor) or until you achieve a range of motion that is comfortable for your body. Your knee should not touch the floor.
4. Make sure that your front knee is in line with the second and third toes of the front foot. Your knee might skim past the foot (and that’s okay), but make sure it doesn’t do so excessively.
5. There should be equal weight distribution through the front heel and the ball of the back foot. You should feel this move in your quad—not your knee.
6. To come out of the lunge, exhale and push through your front heel and press with your back foot. Step feet together and return to the standing neutral start position.
7. Repeat with the other foot.
For a look at proper lunge form plus three common mistakes, check out the video below.
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Here are some common mistakes I see as a trainer! Many women complain about knee or back aches after doing lunges. Lunges should NOT cause you pain in your knees, back or shoulders. If you find this is happening, please reassess your posture and stance. The key is to go slow! Perhaps you may need to stabilise yourself by holding the wall to begin with. It’s all about practice!! If you find that you lose balance whilst doing lunges, make sure you feet remain SHOULDER width apart (not one foot in front of the other). For more, visit www.kaylaitsines.com/app
Now, boost the booty with lunge variations
If you find front lunges bo-ring, then you’re in luck because there are so many ways to take the traditional exercise up a notch. Or, dial it down if you’re a newbie. Here’s how.
Stand with your feet facing forward. With one foot, step out to the side, bend your knee, keeping your opposite leg straight. Shift your weight into your heel and hinge forward with a neutral spine. Press through the heel and step back to start.
This is the lunge to do if you’re a beginner. (Though it can still set your muscles on fire even if you’re more advanced.) Step forward with one foot—you should be resting on the ball of your back foot. Then lower and lift to perform your goal number of reps, says Miller.
With hands on hips and your core engaged, step back with one foot, lower down, and step back to neutral by pressing through the front heel and pushing off with the back foot, says Miller. The above video, from the NASM, shows you how to end on a “balance,” which is another way to add complexity to the lunge.
Next, up the challenge factor to increase the calorie burn
Add equipment: Hold weights, a medicine ball, or a barbell to add resistance, says Miller.
Bring in the arms: “You can turn a simple lunge into a complex exercise by involving the upper body,” says Miller. “Adding bicep curls or overhead presses will increase the demand on the core and make the move more interesting.”
Change your body alignment: There are two basic ways you can align your upper body through the lunge. And that can affect the workload placed on your body. “One of the reasons why I personally love lunges is that I can challenge my body differently simply by changing my position throughout the execution,” says Miller.
The first body position, called a 90/90 lunge, is when you do a lunge with your upper body straight upright. “Upper body weight is directly over hips, which places more demand on the quadriceps,” Miller says. For the second position, bend slightly forward. This places more demand on your glutes to deliver better backside benefits, says Miller.
Ready to put it all together? Try this lunge-filled, 7-minute workout for dancer legs.
For more lunge intel, check out this advice from a professional ballerina. And here are 3 ways to upgrade your lunges for a full-body burn.