One of the most beneficial exercises you can incorporate into your workout regimen is the lunge. The lunge is a compound exercise, which means it involves several moving joints and works multiple muscle groups. By doing just the one exercise, you build strength in your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Plus, the lunge improves balance and flexibility in the hips and ankles. Athletes will regularly do lunges for several reasons, including that the improvements in strength, stability and mobility help reduce the risk of injury.
There are several different types of lunges. The most common include front lunge, walking lunge, reverse lunge and lateral lunge, and you can combine several different types into one exercise with the clock lunge. Add variety to your workouts by using the different types of lunges. If you're looking to really overload your hip and leg muscles, you can incorporate all five types of lunges into a single training session.
Begin by completing the lunges without any additional weight. Your own bodyweight will provide the load for your muscles to overcome. For beginners, the bodyweight lunge is challenging enough to build strength. Once you can complete three sets of 12 bodyweight lunges with ease, you can add more load by placing a barbell on the back of your shoulders and holding it in position with your hands.
It's important to master the basic front lunge first, as it serves as the basis for all other types of lunges.
Technique: Stand tall with your feet set to hip-width apart. Take a large step forward with one foot. Flex your lead knee to lower your hips toward the floor. As you lower, you may find you have the tendency to bend forward at the waist, but you want to keep your torso upright throughout the entire movement. Continue until your lead knee is bent to 90 degrees and your back knee is just short of touching the floor. Then, push off the floor with your lead foot and forcefully extend your lead knee to return your lead foot to its starting position so that you're standing again. Repeat the exercise, stepping forward with the alternate foot.
The walking lunge exercise involves performing repeated front lunges. It works the same group of muscles as the bodyweight lunge, but places greater emphasis on the glutes.
Technique: Position yourself so that you have at least 10 yards of free space in front of you. Take a large step forward with one foot and bend your lead knee to lower into a front lunge. When you're ready to rise up, rather than return your lead foot to its starting position, push through your lead foot and bring your trailing foot up to meet your lead one so that you're in a standing position, but have moved forward across the floor. On the next rep, take a step forward with the opposite foot.
The reverse lunge exercise involves stepping backward before lowering into a lunge. It adds more of a balancing challenge, as we're not as comfortable stepping backward as we are forward. For athletes, older exercisers, or anyone else looking to improve balance, the reverse lunge is an ideal exercise to incorporate into a routine.
Technique: Take a large step backward with one foot, landing on the ball of your foot. Bend your lead knee to lower your back knee toward the floor, keeping your torso upright. Just before your trailing knee touches the floor, extend your lead knee to rise up and then return your rear foot to its starting position so that you're standing again. Switch legs with each rep.
Lateral (Side) Lunge
Rather than stepping forward or backward, the lateral lunge calls for stepping to the side. It still works the same group of lower body muscles, but it also hits your adductors, which are muscles at the inside of your thighs.
Technique: Take a large step to the side with one foot. Both sets of toes should point forward. Flex the knee of the leg you stepped with, keeping it pointed forward. Push off the floor and extend your knee to return to original standing position. Repeat with the opposite leg, stepping to the opposite side.
The clock lunge exercise compiles multiple types of lunges into one exercise. You complete three types of lunges with one leg before moving onto the other leg. The exercise is designed to overload all of the major muscles in the lower body.
Technique: Always stepping with the same leg, first complete a front lunge, then do a lateral lunge, and finish with a reverse lunge. Completing the three exercises is considered one repetition. Perform the collection of three lunges with the opposite leg for the second repetition. Continue switching legs until you've completed all the assigned repetitions.