Lunge variations to build knee strength, build your booty and keep you chasing your little ones with ease.
FLASHCARD TO USE: A for ALTERNATING LUNGE
I think it's safe to say that many of us have felt a tweak or pain in our knees when doing a lunge at some point. Knee pain could be caused by incorrect technique or a genuine injury (which we'll address in this tutorial), but there's plenty of Lunge Variations that you can do to work on building the stabilising muscles around your knee without pain - not only will they add interest to your workouts but they might even make you work harder then the average humble lunge!
Let's talk about Lunges first. The lunge is a unilateral, single leg exercise that targets glutes, hamstrings, hips, quads, and those hard to reach inner thigh muscles. The lunge is a great exercise for developing leg strength and conditioning. It is also great for evening out any muscular imbalances that you may have, because you are working each leg individually.
There are many variations of the lunge, but the fundamental points of performance for each variation remain the same:
When performing any style of lunge, stance and foot placement are key
It is important to not over-extend the hip, putting yourself at risk for injury.
Keep your hips aligned with a balanced base in the frontal plane.
Maintain a vertical shin on the front leg and vertical thigh on the rear leg (make right-angles with your legs).
On the front foot, your weight will be balanced throughout the entire foot, while your weight will be on the ball of your foot and toes on the rear leg.
Your midline should be stabilized (AKA turn on your abs!), and your torso should remain in a vertical position, with the chest upright and the shoulders back.
When standing from the bottom of the lunge, drive through the heel of the front foot to maximize muscle recruitment.
Lunges are a great exercise for:
improving balance and flexibility
developing leg strength and endurance
improving metabolic conditioning
Lunges can be performed with or with out weights. Make sure that you have the strength and stability to perform them without weights before adding them to the exercises. Adding weights to your lunges, places greater demand on, not only your body, but your mind as well, because you have to think about balancing yourself AND the load. Only use weights that are manageable. If you are lunging with weights, the placement of the weight will vary, depending on the exercise. Below are some different variations of lunges:
Let's start with a static lunge to get the foundational technique correct.
Start with a basic lunge, then simply alternate legs.
Stand with one foot in front of the other, hip-width apart and trunk upright
Lower under control until the rear knee gently touches the floor
Commence upwards movement by pushing through the heel of the front foot and the toe of the rear foot, keeping the head and chest up
Continue until the front leg is fully extended at the top of the movement
The reverse lunge is a little easier on the knees and joints, and also gives you more stability in your front leg. If you have minor knee pain from time to time or less hip mobility this variation is ideal. More emphasis is placed on the glutes and hamstrings, making this a good exercise for training strength if you’re adding weight through dumbbells or a barbell. I personally like to add a slider to work on the lateral stabilising muscles as well to build up that knee strength.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and trunk upright
Take a step back with your left foot, lowering your body by bending your right knee
Once your knee almost touches the floor, push back up and forward to your starting position
Bonus Burn 🔥 - try alternating both legs for a lunge then add a squat in between, oh yes this is a leg killer!
The Curtsy lunge is a serious glute burner as it targets the inner and outer glute and thigh muscles.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, torso upright
Take a big step back with your right leg, crossing it behind your left
Bend your knees and lower your hips until your left thigh is nearly parallel to the floor
Return to starting position by driving up your right leg
Bonus Burn 🔥 - Using a kettlebell or dumbbell will up the intensity of this variation.
Walking lunges are a great functional exercise that will also test your balance and coordination. This exercise will target your glutes and hamstrings, as well as placing some demand on your cardiovascular system.
Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart
Step forward with your right leg, placing your foot down as if you were setting up a static lunge, flexing your knees and dropping your hips
As you prepare to drive up and forward, step into a lunge on your other side
Bonus Burn 🔥 - Holding dumbbells or placing a barbell on your back will challenge your lower body further and engage your major core muscles.
Lateral, or side lunges, work your inner and outer thighs as you move from side to side rather than forward and backwards. This exercise can help to increase knee stability, and be used as a lunge variation to help you become more injury resilient to directional changes (like when you're chasing after your kids!).
Stand with feet hip-width apart and trunk upright
Take a big step to the side and lower until the knee of your leading leg is bent at around 90°, keeping your trailing leg straight
Push back up and return to starting position
Rear Foot Elevated Lunge
Also called the Bulgarian split squat, this exercise is a great way to build single leg strength, add lower body mass and improve hip mobility. As well as testing your balance, your glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings will all benefit from performing this exercise. The simplest way to add weight variations to this exercise is with dumbbells – firstly in a goblet position and then one in each hand.
Find a step or bench that is about knee height for your foot to rest on
Start in a forward lunge position with trunk upright, core braced and hips square to your body, with your back foot elevated on the bench
Lower until your front thigh is almost horizontal, keeping your knee in line with your foot
Drive up through your front heel back to the starting position
Front Foot Elevated Lunge
Elevating the front foot will load up your quads and glutes and will help to improve knee stability. This exercise has an emphasis on deep hip flexion and creates additional range of motion in comparison to a regular lunge, therefore an increased demand on your muscles to fire efficiently.
Place your right foot on an elevated surface (aerobics step or 25kg plate)
Assume a comfortable lunge stance and lower your left leg until it just about touches the floor
Drive back up through your right leg – keep tension through your front foot at all times
Jump lunges add a cardiovascular element to the exercise, and is perfectly suited to HIIT workouts. This plyometric exercise will increase your power, balance and speed – so if you want to jump higher or run faster, you should include this explosive movement in your training program.
Begin in a split stance lunge position, bracing your core and keeping your torso upright
Lunge down and then jump in the air and swap leg positions
The aim is to launch straight from one leg to the next
Bonus Burn 🔥 - The best way to add weight to this exercise is a weighted vest.
Love these variations?
This is the first in a 26 part Home/Holiday workout mini series that's full of variations to all our basic exercises and provides a format in which they can be used to get dramatic results. Here is a sneak peek...
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I would love to know how you went with these lunge variations! Please tag me @bambiniwellness or send me a message.
Live, Laugh, Love,
Zemma aka Miss Z