If there’s any exercise that could be considered the bread and butter of many a fitness routine, it’s the bodyweight lunge. Basic (in the best way), the lunge is known for helping runners avoid injury when used as a warm-up, strengthening the hammies and quads, improving lower limb function, and even improving running speed Forward lunge: a training study of eccentric exercises of the lower limbs. Jönhagen, S., Achermann, P., Saartok, T. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2009 May;23(3):972-8. Co-activation of the hamstrings and quadriceps during the lunge exercise. Hefzy, M.S., al Khazim, M., Harrison, L. Biomedical sciences instrumentation. 1997;33:360-5. . The best part? Because there are many variations, it’s nearly impossible to get bored with them. So say buh-bye to that fitness plateau and get started with this round-up of lunges!
This basic movement is the building block for the rest of the exercises on this list—and many workout routines in general. Master it to work your way up to more challenging movements.
To start, stand with your feet together, shoulders back, and core tight. Lift your right leg off the ground and take a big step forward. Lower your body toward the ground until your right upper thigh is parallel to the floor and your right knee forms about a 90-degree angle. Straighten up by pushing through your right heel to return to stand.
This three-part move combines the three basic lunges into one. Just perform a forward lunge and return to stand, then a lateral lunge and return to stand, then a reverse lunge and return to stand. Repeat in the opposite direction.
Fire up your legs even more with walking lunges (the forward movement makes the glutes, hamstrings, and quads of the leading leg contract maximally, and it’s basically like you’re performing a one-legged squat—just don’t forget your form! Maintain good posture, and be sure your front knee never extends past your front foot.
Though slightly less challenging to your balance than a forward lunge, the reverse lunge is still worth adding to your routine—especially for anyone new to or struggling with maintaining balance during exercise, dealing with knee trouble, or lacking mobility in the hips. Stand tall, with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Take a big step back with your left foot, landing on the ball of your feet. Lower your body down while bending your right knee until it forms a 90-degree angle. Reverse the movement to return to stand. Repeat on the other side.
Reverse Lunge and Kick
Looking for a full-body warm-up? Look no further! Move through the regular reverse lunge, but instead of returning to stand on two legs, kick your back leg out in front of you until you can touch your toes with your opposite hand. Return to stand and repeat on the other side.
Step to the side—literally! Also known as a side lunge, a lateral lunge not only strengthens your lower half, but it also improves flexibility. Start standing, with your feet hip-width apart. Engage your core and take a big step out to the right. Bend your right knee (but take care that it doesn’t extend past your right toes) and sit your hips back, keeping your left leg straight and both feet flat on the floor. Push yourself back up to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Alternating Lateral Lunge
Lower down to a regular lateral lunge on your right leg. Keeping your back straight and chest high, bring your left arm across your body to touch your right toes. Reverse the movement and return to stand. Repeat on the other side.
Fact: Curtsies don’t just belong in ballet class. To start, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Take a big step back with your right leg, crossing it behind your left leg. Bend both knees and lower your body towards the floor until your front knee forms about a 90-degree angle. Return to start and repeat on the other side.
Lateral Lunge to Curtsy Lunge
Talk about a power couple: a lateral lunge plus a curtsy lunge! String together these two awesome moves, making sure you keep good form, for one killer exercise.
Lunge with Rear Leg Raise
Lunge ‘n’ lift your way to a stronger lower body. Perform a regular lunge with your right leg forward. As you straighten your right leg, hinge forward at the hips and lift your straightened left leg off the floor behind you until it’s about parallel to the floor. Return to stand, and then repeat on the other side.
Hold an end of a towel in each hand, pull it tight between your hands, and raise your arms directly overhead. Lower down into a lunge with your right foot in front. Pulse your body up and down about an inch. Return to standing, and then repeat on the left side.
Tick Tock Lunge
As the name implies, this move involves both lunging to the front and lunging to the back. Perform a reverse lunge with your right leg back behind you. Push off your right foot, and instead of returning to the standing position, immediately take a big step forward into a traditional bodyweight lunge. Move back and forth until you’re ready to switch to the other leg.
Turn a regular lunge into a total-body torcher by adding a weighted upper-body movement to the mix. Assume the regular lunge starting stance. Grab a dumbbell in both hands, and hold it above your left shoulder, close to your ear. As you lunge forward with your right leg, pull the weight down diagonally across your body—the weight should end up next to your right hip. Reverse the movement and repeat on the other side.
Lunge with Biceps Curl
Work your upper body and lower body simultaneously with this two-in-one move. With a dumbbell in each hand, and lunge forward with your right leg. Once your knee is at about a 90-degree angle, curl the weights, and then lower them back down. Return to standing and repeat on the other side. Talk about a great two-for-one!
Walking Dumbbell Lunge
Walk your way to an even fitter, stronger form by holding a weight in each hand as you making your way forward in a walking lunge. (You can also use a barbell for this move. Rest the bar l across your upper back, and then perform walking lunging as usual.)
Walking Lunge with Twist
Grab a medicine ball and hold it in front of your stomach. Step forward with your right leg and lower yourself into a lunge, then twist your torso to the left. Rotate back to center and raise your body back up, moving your left leg forward into a lunge. Twist your torso to the right. Continue alternating.
Dumbbell Reverse Lunge
Complete the reverse lunge movement outlined above while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
Reverse Lunge and Press
Not only will you challenge your lower half with this move, but you’ll also sculpt some seriously strong shoulders. Start off as you would to perform a regular reverse lunge, but hold a dumbbell in each hand a few inches above your shoulders, palms facing forward. Step back with your left leg, reverse the movement, and instead of returning to stand, draw your left leg up in front of you to hip level. As you do so, press the weights up overhead. Return to standing, and then repeat on the other leg.
Dumbbell Lateral Lunge
Want to make a lateral lunge even more challenging? Bring on the weights! Grab a dumbbell in each hand and perform the movement, keeping your back straight and leaning your torso forward so that the dumbbells end up at about shin-level.
Lateral Lunge to Curtsy Lunge with Overhead Press
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand. As you lunge to the left, lower your torso forward (keeping your chest high and back straight) until the weight is a few inches above the ground. As you return to stand and move into the curtsy lunge, stepping back with your left leg, press the dumbbell up over your head.
One-Legged Lunge with Lift
Amp up regular lateral lunges with this move. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing toward one another. Perform a lateral lunge on your left leg while leaning your torso slightly forward until the weights are at about knee level. As you straighten your left leg, lift your right leg off the floor and out to the side until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Lower your right leg back to the lateral lunge, then return to standing. Repeat on the other side!
Front Lunge Pass Under
Baller status! Standing with your feet together, hold a medicine ball in front of your chest. Take a big step forward with your left foot and lower your body into a lunge. Hinge at the waist as you shift the ball into your right hand. Lower it underneath your left thigh to pass it to your left hand. Return to stand, and then repeat on the other side.
Elevated Reverse Lunge
Step right up! Stand on a step or a box, place your hands on your hips, and step back with your left leg, lowering your body into a lunge. Push through your right foot and straighten your right leg as you return to the standing position. Repeat on the other side.
Diagonal Dumbbell Lunge
For improved stability and stronger quads and hamstrings, move at a diagonal. Grab a dumbbell in each hand (you can also do this exercise sans dumbbell!) and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Just like you would with a traditional lunge, take a large step forward with your right leg, but instead of moving in a straight line, step out on a diagonal. Bend both knees until your right knee forms about a 90-degree angle. Return to standing, and then repeat on the other side.
Lateral Raise Lunge
Another shoulder sculptor, this exercise builds upon the basic lunge movement. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, and hold them by your sides, palms facing in toward your body. As you lower your body into a lunge, raise your arms up to the sides (it’ll look like you’re forming a “T” with your upper body!), and then lower them as you return to stand.
Reverse Lunge Knee-Up
Add some more pep to your (lunge) step! Perform the reverse lunge as usual, but instead of simply returning to standing, straighten your front leg to jump up and draw your back leg up in front of you (so your thigh is parallel to the ground), all in one explosive motion. Return to reverse lunge stance and repeat.
Split Lunge Jump
Get your heart racing with this plyometric exercise. Begin in a lunge stance with your left leg forward. Push through both feet and jump up so that your feet come together in the air. Land in a lunge position, this time with your right leg in front. Continue alternating, moving quickly through the exercise.
Lunge Mountain Climber
This exercise is basically a hybrid of lunges and mountain climbers (A.K.A. the move most love to hate). Start off in push-up position. Bend your right knee, and draw your leg forward, placing your right foot next to your right hand—it’s kind of a stretched-out lunge. Jump both feet up into the air, switching legs so that your left foot lands next to your left hand. Continue alternating, keeping your hips low.
Plyo Side Lunge Switch with Touch-down
Now that it’s football season, it seems only appropriate to include an exercise that involves the word “touchdown”. Disclaimer: This move really has nothing to do with football, but it’s a challenging one nonetheless! Stand with your feet double shoulder-width apart. Lower your body down into a lateral lunge on your left, keeping your chest high as you simultaneously reach your right hand down to the floor in front of you. Push through your left foot to hop back up to the starting wide-stance position, and then repeat the movement on the opposite side. Continue alternating.
While this move may look a little funny, the quick pace will get your heart rate pumping, and the movement itself will yield serious lower body strength. Just like you would with the Split Lunge Jump exercise, you’re going to be moving quickly between right lunges and left lunges. The only difference? You’ll be lunging on a diagonal—a movement that’s guaranteed to keep things interesting.
To challenge your core and build shoulder strength, add this move to your routine. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, and raise your arms overhead so that your palms face one another. Now lunge forward with your right leg, and then bring your left leg forward to meet your right. Lunge forward with your left leg, and then bring your right leg forward to meet your left. Continue alternating, keeping the weights up throughout the movement.
Lunge Jump Burpee
Lunges and burpees…yep, you read that right. Rev your metabolism and strengthen and condition your entire body with this two-in-one move. Perform a perfect burpee, and once you’ve jumped up to stand, immediately perform a lunge jump on your right, and then a lunge jump on your left. Repeat—if you dare!
Thanks to our friends at Lululemon for outfitting our model in the Cool Racerback!