You'll often hear that one does not simply walk after leg day in a foreboding and ominous tone. Leg day inspires abundant amounts of sarcastic e-cards, fitness memes, and it makes you cry if you're commuting to work by foot the next day. A tried-and-true staple of great a leg workout is the lunge. It is, in its most basic form, a stationary bodyweight exercise that strengthens several muscle groups at once and elevates your heart rate at the same time.
How lunges help you
Deep lunges primarily work your glutes and your hamstrings, whereas shallower lunges will really target the quadriceps in your thighs. Because lunges exert more pressure on one leg, other muscle groups come into play as your calves, your core, and your back work overtime to stabilize your body. If you're training for a big race, lunges will help you to run harder, better, faster, stronger by challenging your balance, strength, and range of motion.
How to perform a legit lunge
Maintain proper form to get the full benefits from lunges and to minimize exercise-related injuries. Step forward with one leg and create a 90 degree angle with both knees. The front knee should be in line with your front ankle and it shouldn't extend past your feet (think the corner of a square rather than the corner of a rhombus). Push your front leg off the ground and step your feet back together in a standing position, leading the movement with your other leg.
Creative lunge variations that you can try today
Once you've mastered the basic front lunge, back lunge, and side lunge, you're ready to move on to weighted lunges and plyometric lunges. These 5 creative lunge variations will make you enjoy leg day a lot more than you used to. Have fun walking up a flight of stairs the next day!
Plyometric jumping lunges with a squat
Begin in a standing position. Extend your front foot and bend your knees to form a straight line with your ankles, lowering your body down into a front lunge. Jump vertically, switching your front foot and your back foot so that you come into a lunge on the other side. Land softly as you do so. Next, jump your feet to your sides and lower down into a squat. Perform the complete movement with a jumping lunge for each leg, then squat in between.
Back lunges with a raised arm extension, dumbbell sumo squats.
Step one foot back and lower your body down into a back lunge, raising your opposite arm overhead as you do so. Carry a light weight in your raised hand for an extra challenge. When you're coming out of the lunge, step your foot to the side of your body and create a wide-legged stance. Lower down into a squat immediately, bringing the weight between your legs.
Lunges with water-filled bars. A stability exercise.
If you have a water-filled bar handy, this will help you to improve the balance and strength of your front lunge. The dynamic motion of the water adds a greater challenge than a solid metal weight would.
Lunges with knee-ups
Step one foot back and lower your body down into a back lunge. Push your back knee up and off the ground, pressing it to your body before you step it back into a lunge position again. Do this with weights to intensify your workout. Perform this exercise on a smith machine like PumpUp member @tinytinne demonstrates below if you'd like to add more weight.
Weighted overhead lunges
Get creative with these and make sure you don't arch your back. If you're tired of regular weighted lunges, bring the weights overhead to give a bonus burn to your core, shoulders, and traps. No weights? Make sure you have a firm grip of whatever (reasonably dense and heavy) object you have on hand: textbooks, camping bags, or dictionaries!
Loved these creative lunge variations? A great general rule of thumb is to do 3 sets of 12 lunges per leg. Earn 30 points for every set of 12 lunges if you're participating in our June #ChallengeMe series! Let us know which creative lunge variations you liked best in the comments below!