The Lunge Exercise: Sculpting Legs and Glutes
Proper execution of the Lunge exercise
In relation to this exercise's ability to strengthen, shape, tone and transform your entire lower body, there are a lot of people that still underestimate the significance of the lunge exercise. Lunges are a multi joint, functional movement (full body movement) that can strengthen the whole lower body. Some may opt to stray away from adding the lunge into their normal workout routine because it can be rather challenging, maybe even more difficult than the vaunted squat exercise for some people. Being that it is primarily used for shaping/definition, It definitely should not be used as a power movement. Your concentration should be on controlling the movement and perfecting your form. The constant shifting of the weight load also requires and will improve your balance and overall stability. When developing/molding the shape of your quadriceps, glutes, hips, hamstrings, and stretching your hip flexors (allowing your glutes to be worked more effectively) the lunge can be just as effective, if not better then the squat exercise.
The Kettle Bell Lunge
The Standard Lunges movement
I wouldn't say any of the variations of the lunge exercise are really considered to be for beginners, as they all require a lot of dexterity and strength. However, the standard lunge would probably be considered one of the simplest ones. Using dumbbells (one in each hand) or with a barbell (balance the bar/weight across your shoulders) if that's more comfortable, you will begin standing with your feet parallel to each other, at approximately two feet apart (shoulder width). Always keeping your head upright/eyes ahead, lunge forward (big step) with the right leg until the right thigh is parallel to the floor. The lower leg out front should be perpendicular to the floor. Its imperative to keep your eyes/head up, looking down will promote imbalance and cause your body to fold. The length of the lunge will obviously vary according to your height. Avoid any angles that allow your knee to be forward of your heels, this will put unnecessary stress on the knee joint. Push back up to the starting position with your right thigh and glute. Repeat this with both legs until the desired number of repetitions/sets are reached.
Walking Lunge performed by Amy McCauley on Livestrong.com
The Walking Lunge
As I mention before, there are several variations of the lunge exercise. Introducing different variations of the exercise to your workout regime will incorporate different muscles groups/fibers, even including your calves. Any time you change the angle or way you perform an exercise, you are going to bring different muscles into play. The most difficult variation of the exercise is the walking lunge. You must maintain your balance through your hip flexors, quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings while walking forward, all with the stress of the weight load shifting. With your eyes and chin up and in a normal stance (with dumbbells or a barbell), step out far enough until the your lower leg is perpendicular to the floor and ensuring your not placing all the stress of the weight on your knees. Push forward using your glutes and hamstrings, alternating legs until the desired distance or repetitions is reach. It will take some practice to maintain balance, but once you strengthen your lower muscles, it will become a lot easier.
Muscles involved in the Lunge
Fitmarriage.com Performing the reverse lunge exercise
The Reverse Lunge
This form of the lunge exercise is a lot easier and safer to most people because of the way it is performed on the smith machine, an apparatus found in most gyms which assists in providing stability or it could be done in the privacy of your home with just your own body weight and also allows the use of many different angles. For the fitness beginners, a smith machine is basically a squat rack which provides assistance with stability, balance and is normally slanted to alleviate stress on the back. Standing inside the smith machine rack, your legs are going to be slightly in front of you. You take a step back into the lunge, bending at the knee until the front/bent leg is perpendicular to the floor. Push up with your glutes and hamstrings, alternating legs. Some people like to use an aerobic step or box to change the angle in their routine. As a beginner/first timer, this would probably be the best suited variation to start with.
How to do side Lunges
The Side Lunge
This one can be performed in several different ways and puts a lot more stress on your abductors (the inner thigh). Strengthening your abductors will improve your overall performance with any activity or sport that requires lateral movement such as basketball, baseball, or football. With your legs shoulder width apart, step out to the right or left (which ever leg you feel comfortable to start with) keeping the opposite leg straight and both feet pointed forward. Ensure you are not putting the weight load on your knee and your thigh is as parallel to the floor as possible. Push with your glutes back to the starting position. Remember as I stated earlier, the lunge done in any way or variation should not be used as a power movement. Stacking a bunch of plates on the barbell to lunch will more than likely result in you injuring yourself, rather than helping you. Your ankle should always be kept directly below your mid knee. Bad form or over usage can and will perpetuate leg or knee problems.
Medicine Ball Rotation Lunge
Which variation of lunge is in your workout?
Hilton Head Health Fitness and Wellness Coach Amy Kelderhouse on lunge variations
Other Variations of the Lunge exercise
There are several other ways the lunge can be performed such as diagonally, curtsy, plyometric, around the clock just to name a few more, the ones listed are simply the basic movements. But before you go out and get all gung-ho and attempt to go with the more advanced versions of the lunge exercise, ensure that you use the correct form for the basics. Whether you are a beginner at working out or a seasoned athlete/gym junkie/body builder/fitness competitor, one or all of the different variations of the lunge should be used for overall developing and effectively shaping/molding your lower body. Adding them consistently to your leg routine will give you the more muscular quads and glutes you have been wanting.
More links with more information on muscular development
- Developing Strong, Muscular Thighs
If building lean, muscular legs was easy, everyone would have them. They may be one of the harder muscle groups to develop. This article explores the steps in developing your quadriceps.
- What's the better exercise? Squats vs Hack squats
This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of both leg exercises, the regular squat and the hack squat.