The lunge is a great strengthening exercise for the legs and core. It is also one of the best exercises for the hip bone, favored by those who hope to reduce the impact of aging on bone density loss in the hip area. The versatility of the lunge keeps it from becoming a boring routine. Here are 11 variations.
1. Forward split lunge
It is a good idea to master this foundation move first to ensure good form. Split your legs, one in front of the other. Balance your back leg on your toes. Keeping your back straight and holding your core tight, lower down onto your back knee. Be sure that your toes are straight and your forward knee tracks directly over your heel. If you find your front knee over your toes, there is a risk of strain. Lower gradually for the first few repetitions, giving your knees a chance to warm up. Avoid lowering down all the way to the floor on the initial movement. Keep your arms down at your sides, or place hands on hips. Repeat on the other side.
2. Lateral-raising lunge
This variant adds weights to the movement. With one weight in each hand, lift both arms straight out from your sides as you lower down, and lower your arms as you return to the starting position. Move slowly to work your muscles and ensure you are not using momentum. Again, maintain a straight back and a tight core. When you have completed the set on one side, repeat on the other side. This is excellent for your arms and legs.
3. Forward lunge with arm movement
Lower yourself down as if you are sitting in a chair while simultaneously pushing your arms straight out in front of you for counterbalance. Lift back up, lower your arms and repeat. Hold weights for more of a challenge.
4. Reverse Lunge
Starting from the forward split position, lower yourself down, and then come all the way up to a standing position. Unlike the basic lunge where your legs remain split as you rise, in the reverse lunge, the legs come together. This engages the gluteal muscles and hamstrings. For maximum benefits, keep it slow.
5. Split Squat, Forward Foot Raised
Keep your back foot on the ground and your front foot on a raised platform or exercise step just a few inches off the ground. Slowly lower down and return to position. As a word of caution, avoid elevating your raised foot too high. Two to four inches should be a good starting point, adjusting higher or lower at your discretion.
6. Forward-and-reverse lunge with weights
Start with the basic forward split lunge; then raise up to a full standing position, and in a slow, steady movement, bring the leg that was forward all the way back and lower down. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, but leave your arms down against your sides, focusing on the legs only. Try to maintain the same rhythm on both sides. That is the challenging part.
7. Bulgarian split squat
This is the opposite of the split squat with the forward foot raised. It is the same idea, but rather than using an exercise step in front of you, keep your foot raised in back of you, resting on a weight bench. Be sure the back toe is facing downward on the bench. The ankle is straight or neutral. Start with your own body weight to make sure you are able to maintain stability. Then if you are comfortable, hold a dumbbell in each hand, keeping the arms straight down by your sides as you lift and lower.
8. Walking Lunge
This is an extension of the basic split lunge where, rather than returning to the original position and lowering the body again, the leg that was back moves forward. Do not stop at the bottom of the lunge. This pattern continues with the lead foot becoming the back foot and the back becoming the lead, so you are essentially walking and lunging at the same time. Weights may be added for enhanced strength training.
9. Lateral Lunge
In this version, one leg lunges while the other leg is straight out to the side. Benefits of this movement include the development of quads, increased stability of knees and improvement in the function of the hips.
10. Reverse lunge and kick
Start from a split lunge position. Lower your body down, and when you come back up, lift and kick the leg out that had been lowered while reaching the fingers of your opposite side to the toes of the lifted leg.
11. Lunge with resistance band
This is a different spin on the lunge, adding resistant bands to the mix. Use a power loop, or double up a flat band. Holding one end of the band in each hand, raise your arms over your head. Bring your legs into a split lunge position, and lower down. With arms raised, pulse up and then down. Return fully upright. Repeat on the other side.