It's time to step away from training your “mirror muscles.” You know a carved core, beefed up back, and amped up arms are going to make you look good in a t-shirt, but you're missing out on some huge gains by solely training muscles from the waist up. The solution is simple; add these lunge variations into your workout regimen. Aside from filling out those chicken legs of yours, lunges will make you a better athlete.
"Training your glutes will give you more speed and explosive power," says Simon King personal trainer and owner of Cre8 Fitness gym in London, England. All in all, unilateral exercises are a great way to improve flexibility and balance. And, King adds, "Compound exercises like lunges elicit a huge metabolism response, meaning you burn [a ton of] calories. If you're ready to bulletproof your body, reduce your risk of injury with the added reward of strong glutes, lean hamstrings, and toned calves, then let's get started with the 15 best lunge variations.
Here's King's suggested checklist before you begin; it applies to every lunge variation on our list:
- Prepare your body for movement through mobilization and a proper warm up
- Drive through your heel(s) to get maximum glute recruitment
- Keep hips aligned to protect any knee deviation
- Ensure your core is braced to create intra-abdominal pressure
- Your head should remain still throughout every exercise
If you’re a beginner, King suggests starting with a static or walking lunge, concentrating on the quality of each rep. Start with 3 sets of 10 reps each leg. As you become more competent think about challenging your body as much as possible, increasing the amount of reps and sets, even working towards 10 sets of 10 reps on a more advanced exercise like the Rear Foot Elevated Lunge holding dumbbells in each hand.
What it works and why it’s challenging:
"The Static Lunge may be your starting point of developing the movement pattern, however it’s one that places huge stress through your hamstrings, glutes, and quads due to its strong eccentric contraction of your muscles," King says. Working on the eccentric (lowering) phase of this exercise is super important because you want to recruit as many muscle fibers—required for performance and muscle development—as possible. What's more, the static lunge will challenge your balance (since all your weight is loaded through your forward leg) and your hip flexibility (which will determine how deep you can settle in to the lunge).
How to do it:
Take a split stance so when you lower yourself into the lunge, both knees are bent at 90 degrees. If your right leg is forward, place most of the load through this foot, aiming to keep it firm and flat against the floor at all times. Your trailing left leg should be used to support and balance you as you drive upwards through the heel of your right (forward) leg. Make sure you stay on the balls of your feet as your left (trailing) leg comes back up.