7 min read

Lunges – the right technique and variations

Fitness & Nutrition Editor
Undine is currently studying fitness, health, and wellness to become a certified trainer. She writes articles for foodspring about nutrition and fitness. She also creates free food programs.

When it comes to exercises for your legs and glutes, the lunge is one of the classics. This seemingly simple move is very effective, so lunges are a great addition to your fitness routine, even for beginners! And we’ll show you how to do it perfectly.

What are lunges?

Do you want toned legs and well-defined glutes? Then you should definitely include the lunge in your leg-day plan. Sure, lots of us learned what a lunge was when we were kids. But don’t underestimate this deceptively simple move! Because they make your legs burn and your glutes really pop. You can do them at the gym or at home because you don’t need any equipment or extra weight. Just your motivation to get fit and the right technique!


Which muscles do lunges train?  

Lunges are the perfect workout for toned glutes and legs because they train your thighs and the back of your legs without extra weight or equipment.

A muscle map detailing the muscles used in lunges. The primary muscles are highlighted in dark blue, and the secondary muscles are highlighted in light blue. They are discussed below.

The primary muscles used in a lunge are:

  • the gluteus maximus (musculus gluteus maximus), and
  • the leg extensor (quadriceps femoris muscle).

The secondary muscles used in a lunge are:

  • the three hamstring muscles:
    • the leg flexor (biceps femoris muscle)
    • the semimembranosus
    • the semitendinosus, and
  • the calf muscles.

In addition, strong core muscles are important for keeping your back from hollowing out while you perform this exercise. So if you’re looking for an effective move to train your posterior, you should definitely try some lunges.


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How Many Calories Does A Lunge Burn?

Want to lose some weight and wonder what exercises you should do? As a lunge is one of the more active exercises, it’ll really make you work up a sweat. A 15-20 minute lunge workout burns about 100 calories, but this is only a rough reference value.

Several factors influence how many calories you burn, including your height, sex, age, and fitness level. If you’re looking to find out how many calories you need to consume in a day, check out our calorie counter. You can enter details about your body, your lifestyle and your goals to help you with your calorie calculations.

 a group of mixed men and women of various skin colors do lunges in a gym with arms raised in the air

©PeopleImages


Lunge Technique/Step-by-Step 

Even the best leg exercise won’t help you if your technique isn’t right. Do your lunge correctly and you’ll enjoy your workouts over the long term and reduce your risk of injury, with or without extra weight. To make everything go smoothly for you, the following explains how to perform a lunge correctly, step by step.

Step 1: Starting Position

All you need is yourself and a sturdy pair of shoes, but you can even do it barefoot. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, facing forward. Let your arms hang loosely by your sides.

Step 2: Moving Down and Up

Take a big step forward with your right leg. Your other foot stays in the starting position. Now move down until your front knee is over your foot. Rotate your front knee outwards slightly. This prevents your knee from falling inwards unintentionally. Go as low as you can with your back leg while maintaining control and tension in your upper body. Then push up again and push yourself back into the starting position with your right leg.

Alternatively you can also move your arms during the exercise. When you start with your right leg, lift your left arm and bend your elbow to 90 degrees. The right arm is also bent at a right angle, but will remain by your side. When you step back, lower both arms back down to your sides. When you begin with the left leg, lift the right arm.

Ausfallschritt Endposition
©foodspring

Your upper body should stay upright during the entire movement, i.e. avoid leaning forward or back. Keep your torso and abdomen engaged to avoid hollowing your back. If you have difficulty keeping your balance, put your back knee down to the mat during the downward movement. 

Step 3: Repetitions

Once you’ve returned to the starting position, step forward with the other leg. Or you can train one leg first and then the other, just make sure you do the same number for both the right and left leg.

Note that your set and repetition count depends on your personal fitness goal. If you want to build muscle mass, do between 8-12 repetitions and 3-4 sets. To increase your muscular endurance and burn a few more calories, do 15-20 repetitions.

 


Ready to get started? With our free foodspring workouts, tailored to your goals and your fitness level, you can work toward your goals at home in an effective and goal-oriented way. You decide! There’s many different workouts to choose from.

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Lunge Variations

Once you’ve internalized the basic movement, it’s time to introduce some variety into your workouts. This move has countless variations, so it never gets boring and you can work on your thighs and glutes over and over again. But before you change the exercise and increase the level of difficulty, make sure you have a firm grasp of the basic technique and are performing the movement correctly. The 6 most popular lunge variations are:

Reverse Lunge

This version uses the same principles as the basic form. Begin in the starting position with feet hip-width apart and take a step backwards instead of to the front. The step should be big enough so the bend in your front knee reaches 90 degrees. The back knee is never lowered to the floor completely. You can also move your arms along with this variation.

Side Lunge

For a side lunge, begin in the normal starting position with feet hip-width apart. Then take a big step to the side instead of the front. Your feet remain parallel to each other. The tips of your toes continue to point forward. Bend your knee until you have reached at least a 90-degree angle. Interlace your fingers in front of your chest while you’re moving to the side or bring them forward to stabilize yourself. Then push off with your bent leg and land back in the starting position. Finish by bringing your arms back down to the sides of your body.

Side Lunge/Seitlicher Ausfallschritt - Endposition
©foodspring

Around The World Lunge

This variant combines steps forward, to the side, straight back, and diagonally back. Begin from the starting position with a lunge forward. Then go back, put your foot down for a moment, and go straight into a side lunge. Push off again and return briefly to the starting position. Then go into a reverse lunge straight backwards, and then come back to the starting position. Finally, take a step diagonally backwards, as if you were crossing your legs. Then return to the beginning and start with the other leg. Keep moving your arms along with your position.

Jumping Lunge

This variation really makes your legs burn! Begin in the starting position and jump forward into the lunge, then alternate your legs. Move your arms along with the position change. Again, make sure you don’t put your knee down completely!

Pulse Lunge

In principle this one works just like a normal lunge. Begin in the starting position and take a big step forward. But this time, bend and straighten your back knee several times before returning to the starting position. Keep your hands on your hips throughout the whole movement.

Walking Lunge

The name says it all for this variation: it’s a walking lunge. Take a normal lunge with one leg ahead. Then push off from your back foot, take it past the front leg, and take a big step forward directly. Keep moving forward in alternating lunge steps. If this walking lunge is too hard for you, put your foot down for a moment before moving forward. Again, you can move your arms dynamically with your body or put your hands on your hips.

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Common Lunge Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Even if you’re doing your lunges without extra weight, you should avoid making mistakes to reduce your risk of injury and reach your goals effectively. Especially when you’re working out at home, and there’s no trainer to check your position, you need to pay attention to the following potential problem spots:

#1 Keep Your Back Straight

No matter which lunge variant you choose – your back should remain straight throughout. Avoid hollowing your back by trying to constantly engage your abdominal and torso muscles. Don’t tilt your upper body too far forward or back either.

#2 Breathe Right

As with any other exercise, you should exhale during the concentric phase, i.e. when it’s at its most strenuous. In the eccentric phase, when it’s easier again, you breathe in again. For lunges this means: inhale when lowering down and exhale again when pushing up.

Also avoid, at all costs, holding your breath. We can forget to breathe out, especially as it gets more difficult. However, this causes blood to gather in the brain and can quickly make you dizzy. So make sure you continue to breathe normally.

Ein sportlicher Mann macht einen Ausfallschritt
©PeopleImages

#3 Keep Your Knee Above Your Ankle

In lunges, your front foot should always be aligned with your ankle so you should avoid pushing your knee beyond the tips of your toes. Move your upper body down vertically and your shin should naturally keep itself perpendicular to the floor. 

#4 Don’t Let Your Knee Fall Inwards

Every time you push off with your front leg, make sure your knee doesn’t fall inwards. If you have difficulty with this, consciously push them out or rotate your foot outwards a little at the beginning. In the jumping lunge and walking lunge especially, knees can fall inwards quickly due to the dynamic movement.

Solltest du unsicher sein, frage immer einen Trainer, ob er noch mal über deine Ausführung drüberschauen kann. Wenn du zu Hause trainierst, filme dich beim Sport. So siehst du dich in jeder Position der Übung und kannst sichergehen, dass deine Technik fehlerfrei ist.


Lunges Versus Squats

Squats are also one of the most popular lower-body exercises and they train basically the same muscles as a lunge. Just like lunges, you can do squats at home with nothing more than your body weight. As a basic exercise, however, the lunge allows for more variations than the squat. If you decide to train without additional weight, different lunge variations allow you to work on each muscle over and over again. In order to do the same with squats, you’d have to use additional weight.


Our Conclusion

  • The lunge is an effective fitness exercise for your thighs and glutes.
  • It’s appropriate for beginners, but also for more advanced workouts as well, because the many different variations can challenge you again and again, and make you really work up a sweat.
  • You can do this workout at home or the gym.
  • Make sure you use the correct technique to get the most out of the exercise. In this way, you’ll also reduce your risk of injury and achieve long-term success with your fitness goals.
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