The lunge is a resistance exercise that can be used to help strengthen your lower body, including your:

  • quadriceps
  • hamstrings
  • glutes
  • calves

When practiced from different angles, lunges are also a functional movement. Functional movements can help you work muscles in ways that benefit everyday movements you do outside of exercising. For example, side lunges help strengthen the muscles your body uses to move and change direction.

Lunges can also help prepare your muscles for participating in exercise and sports that require a lunging motion like tennis, yoga, and basketball.

Read on to learn more about the benefits of lunges and how to incorporate them into your daily routine.

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The basic lunge works the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. To correctly do a lunge:

  1. Start by standing up tall.
  2. Step forward with one foot until your leg reaches a 90-degree angle. Your rear knee should remain parallel to the ground and your front knee shouldn’t go beyond your toes.
  3. Lift your front lunging leg to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 to 12 reps on one leg, or switch off between legs until you’ve totaled 10 to 12 reps per leg.

By performing lunge variations, you can activate different muscles. For example, instead of lunging forward, you can lunge to the side.

Side lunges, also known as lateral lunges, can help you increase flexibility and strengthen your thigh muscles. You can also do a walking lunge to keep your body moving and help elevate your heart rate. Adding a torso twist to lunges works the abdominal muscles.

Walking lunge

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A walking lunge works the same muscles as a basic lunge, but it may help elevate your heart rate from the additional movement. To do a walking lunge:

  1. Start by performing a basic lunge with your right leg lunging forward.
  2. Instead of returning to a standing position, start to lunge forward with your left leg so it’s now in a lunge position. Your right leg should stay in position to stabilize you.
  3. Continue this “walking” motion as you continue to lunge forward, alternating legs, for 10 to 12 reps on each leg.

Lunge with a torso twist

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A lunge with a torso twist gives you the added benefit of working your abdominals in addition to your glutes and quads. To do a lunge with a torso twist:

  1. Start by performing a basic lunge with your right leg lunging forward.
  2. After your right leg is lunged forward in front and you’re feeling stable, use your core to twist your torso to the right. Hold for a few seconds. Don’t move your legs out of lunge position.
  3. Twist your torso back to the center. Step back to standing with your right leg.
  4. Switch legs and lunge forward with your left leg, and, once stabilized, twist to the left this time.
  5. Perform 10 lunges with twists on each side.

Side or lateral lunge

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In addition to working your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, a side or lateral lunge also works your inner thigh muscles. To do a side lunge:

  1. Start standing tall, feet hip-width distance apart.
  2. Take a wide step out to the left. Bend your left knee as you push your hips back. Keep both feet flat on the floor throughout the lunge.
  3. Push off with your left leg to return to standing.
  4. Perform 10 to 12 lunges on the left side before switching to the right.

If you’re looking to improve your physical fitness level and strengthen your legs, consider adding lunges to your weekly exercise routine 2 to 3 times a week.

If you’re new to fitness, you can start by doing 10 to 12 lunges on each leg at a time. If your goal is to lose weight or tone your body, lunges should be performed in addition to cardiovascular exercise and other strength training moves.

Try cardio or high-intensity interval training 2 to 3 times per week, alternating days with strength training, like lunges, on the other days.

If you aren’t sure how to set up an exercise routine, work with a certified personal trainer who can make a schedule for you to follow.

Can you use lunges to spot train your muscles?

Some of the pros of spot training, or targeting only one area of your body with lunges, are that you may see a slight increase to muscle development or tone in that area.

The cons are that your body can quickly adapt. The move will no longer be challenging after a few weeks. Instead, a well-rounded fitness routine can help you meet your goals.

Lunges and squats are similar bodyweight exercises that both target the glutes and leg muscles. The difference is that a lunge is done one leg at a time, so you’re strengthening each leg individually. That means you’re firing up your stabilizing muscles. This may help even out any imbalances.

Lunges are also easier on the back, so if you experience lower back pain, consider sticking to lunges instead of adding in squats. Alternatively, avoid bending down as far in your squat.

Neither squats nor lunges are better for toning up. Both are excellent exercises to engage the muscles in your lower body. For best results, consider adding both to your routine.

Lunges can be an effective exercise to help tone and strengthen your lower body. Take care to do lunges with proper form. As you lunge, your knee shouldn’t go over your toes. And don’t extend your leg too far in any direction when you lunge, either.

Correctly performing lunges can help reduce your risk for injury.

If you need help getting started with lunges, ask a certified personal trainer to watch your form. When you become more advanced, you can hold free weights in each hand as you lunge for an additional strengthening challenge. Just remember to always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.