Lunge Your Way to Better Fitness

Everyone knows that the all mighty lunge is a great lower body strength exercise. Today I want to hit on different variations of the lunge along with similarities and differences.

First, let's start off with some basic positioning cues. When doing lunges you should have equal weight distribution throughout the foot - if anything you might feel a little more weight toward your heel. Your knee should be directly over your ankle or mid-foot. Your knee should also be in a straight line from ankle to hip. Lastly, have a forward lean through the trunk.

Positioning is important and will make a dramatic difference as to what muscle group handles the majority of the work. For example, doing lunges in an upright posture will lead to the quad doing most of the work. Adding a trunk lean will get the glutes and hamstrings to work harder.

All lunge variables can be made more intense by adding resistance to them. Resistance can come in many forms including dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and bands. Other ways to make lunges more intense is to do them on unstable surfaces, such as a BOSU or foam mat, or keeping a narrow base while doing them. These are all great ways to make the exercise harder once you have mastered the movement.

Walking Lunge: Start with feet hip width apart. Step straight out and get into the body position described above. Once to proper depth, focus on your hip muscles to push your body up and forward to the next step. You can come back to a standing position or continue right through into the next step. These are great to do when you have a long hallway or a lot of space at the gym.

Reverse Lunge: Start in a standing position and reach your leg back behind you. With only a little weight put on the back leg, lower your body down into the lunge position. Come back up to initial standing position. This lunge is a great option when in a confined space. These are also my go-to lunge when getting a client to learn to use the posterior muscle chain (glutes/hamstrings).

Forward Lunge: Start in a standing position and step forward. Upon landing, lower your body into lunge position and then push your body back up into your start position. This lunge works great to reinforce the shock absorption aspect of landing while running.

Lateral Lunge: Start in a standing position and step straight out to the side. Lower your body like you're doing a squat (hips back, lean forward). Once to proper depth, push yourself back to starting position. This is a great variation since in incorporates lateral movement, something that we usually lack. It also helps build hip strength to help with lateral stability in regards to walking, running and other movements.

Angle Lunge: This variation can be done with either forward or walking lunges. The only difference is that instead of stepping out straight in front, you will now step out at an angle. Feel free to play around with multiple angles. One of the main reasons for adding variety to these exercises is to challenge the body and put it in positions that happen in real life.

Crossover Lunge: From a standing position, take one leg and reach behind and across your body to the side. Lower your body down into a lunge position and push back up to your start position. This lunge puts a lot of demand on the muscles surrounding the hip.

Pivot Lunge: This is probably the most complex lunge listed. From a standing position, pivot and lunge at an angle behind you. Lower your body down in the lunge position and push yourself back to the starting position. This is a great multi-plane movement that requires coordination and mobility through the hips in order to do it well. To get the motion, think of stepping back to pick up a box behind you.

So the next time you are going to do lunges, try something different. As with all exercises, start with mastering the movement first. Then work on adding resistance or an uneven surface to make the exercise as challenging as you want.

Always Running,

Nate Vandervest
Running Coach, CSCS, CES
Nate is a running coach and strength coach that specializes in running assessments, strength training and personalized running programs. For more information contact