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Written by Lynn Glenn   

The lunge is a weight training exercise that is use to strengthen and build the quadriceps (thighs), glutes (butt) and muscles comprising the "hamstrings", the semitendinosubarbell_lunges, the semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. The lunge can be performed in several ways, using a barbell, using dummbells, using cables and even using a  Smith Machine.

The lunge is often overlooked by many people who instead focus on standard leg exercises such as squats, leg curls, leg press and leg extensions. The lunge is a terrific training exercise for the entire leg region and should not be overlooked, since it is an excellent leg exercise that incorporates the entire lower body.  By failing to incorporate lunges, people are missing out on a very unique and important leg building exercise. 

Lunge Summary 

  • Main Muscle(s) Worked: Quadriceps
  • Other Muscles (Secondary) Worked: Hamstrings, Glutes
  • Equipment: None
  • Mechanics Type: Compound (When two or more joint movements are involved).
  • Force: Push (Concentric contraction of the target muscle when movement is away from center of body).
  • Utility: Auxiliary (An optional exercise that may supplement a basic exercise. Auxiliary exercises may place greater relative intensity on a specific muscle or a head of a muscle).

Lunge Muscles Worked  

Your stance in this exercise will determine what muscles are used. The longer the step , the more the hamstrings will be used, and the shorter the step, the more quads will be used. The glutes however, will get a great workout with most variations of the lunge.  

Lunge Target Muscles Worked  

  • Quadriceps 

Lunge Synergists Muscles Worked  

  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Adductor Magnus
  • Soleus lunge_anatomy

Lunge Stabilizers Worked 

  • Erector Spinae
  • Tibialis Anterior
  • Gluteus Medius
  • Gluteus Minimus

Lunge Dynamic Stabilizers Worked

  • Hamstrings
  • Gastrocnemius

Lunge Antagonist Stabilizers Worked  

  • None

Lunge Correct Exercise Procedure  woman_doing_dumbbell_lunge

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands on waist or with hands and arms hanging by your side.
  • Look straight ahead, straighten your back and pull abdominal muscles in tight.
  • Take a large step forward landing on heel first. The step should be long enough to where the back foot's hell lifts off the ground.
  • Lower yourself, while breathing in, until your legs are at a 90 degree angle with keeping your weight on forward heel. Your knee should line up over the top of foot and not over the toes.
  • Push back up through the heel on the forward foot, while breathing out, to starting position.
  • Continue on same leg until desired repetitions are completed, then switch legs and repeat.

Lunge Tips  

By using the tips mention below will help for the muscle(s) full development by incorporating more muscle fibers per rep, thus increasing the muscle's size and strength.

  • Practice proper form and control. Starting with this exercise, or any exercise you have not performed before, make sure you use the full range of movement with proper extension and contraction completed. This is important for the muscles full development.
  • Keep torso upright. Look straight ahead, straighten your back, chest up and pull abdominal muscles in tight while performing the lunge.
  • Lower until legs are at 90 degree angle. Lower yourself down until both legs are at a 90 degree angle. The position is right before your back feels like it wants to arch and the back knee touches the ground.
  • Keep knee over foot. During the lunge movement keep your knee lined up over the foot and not the toes.
  • Push through heel. When coming up to starting position make sure you push through the heal of the front foot.
  • Maintain control. Maintain control at all times and do not jerk through the motion for momentum.
  • Knee pointing same direction as foot. Throughout the lunge movement the lead knee should point the same direction as the foot.
  • Avoid locking out knee. To keep tension on the quadriceps after returning to starting position avoid locking out the knee.

Lunge Frequent Mistakes  

Performing the exercise improperly, often referred to as cheating, will not allow for the muscle and muscle fibers to be use their fullest potential, resulting in not achieving desired development of the muscle.

  • Not keeping torso upright. By not looking straight ahead or having your back straight, chest up and abdominal muscles pulled in tight while performing the lunge, can cause lost of balance or add stress to lower back.
  • Not lowering legs at 90 degree angle. Lowing legs beyond 90 degrees will add additional stress to the knee causing possible joint damage. Not lowing legs to the 90 degree angle will not allow the full quadricep muscles to be incorporated therefore not achieving the desired quadricep development.
  • Not keeping knee over foot. Not keeping knee directly over the foot during the lunge movement, buy taking too long or to short of a step, can put added pressure to the knee causing possible joint damage.
  • Not pushing through heel. Buy not pushing through the front foot's heel, when going back to starting position, will cause an awkward movement therefore loosing balance and possible ankle, knee or hip injury.
  • Not maintaining control. Not maintaining control by twisting the upper body and using jerky motions will defiantly put you at risk for an injury.
  • Knee not pointing same direction as foot. If knee is not pointing the same direction as the foot throughout the lunge movement, knee could twist causing lost of balance or knee injury.
  • Locking out the knee. By locking out the knee in the starting position will take the tension of the quadriceps and allow quadricep muscles to relax before next repetition.
  • Movement performed too fast. If movement is performed too fast, it will not allow full usage of all muscle fibers.
  • Limiting the range of motion. Many lifters do not go all the way down or do not squeeze at the top of the movement. If full range of motion is not use, less muscle fiber will be worked and less growth will occur.

Lunge Variations   

There are several Lunge variations with regard to both form and resistance in addition to varying the step length.A variation of a specific exercise is intended to work man-doing-dumbbell-lungedifferent subgroups of muscles, or work the same muscles in slightly different ways. Some of the variations use for the Lunge: 
  • Dumbbell Lunge. Dumbbell Lunge is performed the same as the standard and Barbell Lunge but holding dumbbells down by your sides. By holding the dumbbells down at your sides the Trapezius Upper and Lower and Levator Scapulae are used as additional stabilizers.
  • Small Step Lunge. A Small Step lunge just means taking a half step forward. By performing the lunge this way, you will put more emphasis on your front quadriceps muscle and less on your hamstrings.  When performing this variation, it is particularly important to ensure that your knee is tracking straight over your toe.
  • Long Step Lunge. When taking an extra long step forward the emphasis of the muscles being worked will be the hamstrings and glutes, rather than emphasizing the quadriceps. When performing this variation, just be sure not to take too far of a step forward, as this will probably throw you off balance and you won't be able to handle enough weight this way to effectively challenge your muscles.
  • Reverse Lunge. The Reverse Lunge The Reverse Lunge is just like the regular lung, except as it's name implies you take a step backwards rather then forward. The effects on the muscle are the same, but the reverse Lunge places less stress on the knees because the knees cannot extend beyond the toes. If you have pain in your knees, reverse lunges are a better choice than forward lunges. Also, with a Forward Lunge your balance must shift forward as you step, a condition that often makes it difficult to maintain your stability. In contrast, during the Reverse Lunge your weight is primarily centered upon your forward leg, which remains stationary, making it easier to maintain your balance. All these factors make the Reverse Lunge the best lower body exercise to perform for novices and those people that are not yet conditioned.
  • Side Lunge. The Side Lunge is basically a normal lunge except you step to the side. The Side Lunge works primarily the muscles of your inner thigh (adductors) anside_lunged gluteous maximus (butt), with secondary emphasis on your front thighs. The side lunge exercise is suitable for any fitness level. The stride can be adjusted as can the depth of the lunge, depending on the degree of workout desired. By combining side lunges with front and back lunges, every muscle in the lower body is engaged for maximum effectiveness.
  • Barbell Walking Lunge. Barbell Walking Lunge is performed the same as the Walking Lung but using the barbell to further increase its intensity. Barbell Walking Lunge will require more balance when performing. Make sure you have plenty of room for completing this exercise.
  • Dumbbell Walking Lunge. Dumbbell Walking Lunge is performed the same as other walking lunges but holding dumbbells in your hands and arms hanging at your side. The draw back with the Walking Lunge as with other dumbbell lunges, when the quadriceps grow stronger the dumbbells will become increasingly more difficult to hold on to as the dumbbell weight increases.
  • Incline Lunge. Performed the same way as the standard Lunge, but by performing the Lunge on an incline will further increase its intensity and difficulty therefore increasing quadriceps size and strength.
  • Bench Lunge. Bench Lunge is a variation of the regular Lunge, except it is more of an advance lunge and the intensity increases when you lunge onto a bench instead of flat on the floor.
  • Lever Lunge. Most gyms have other equipment or machinery that mask the using of free weights. The Lever Lunge is a good alternate choice for its safety and control for the dumbbell and barbell Lunge while still increasing the intensity over the standard Lunge..
  • Cable Lunge. Cable Lunge uses a low pulley and requires either a cable belt or dip belt for performing while holding on to the machine for balance. Cable Lunge is great safe way to perform the Lunge while adding weight. Using cable equipment and with holding on for balance, fewer stabilizing muscles are required.
  • One Arm Cable Lunge. With the One Arm Cable Lunge you grasp a stirrup attachment facing low pulley equipment with one hand and the other one the hip for balance. This alternative weighted Lunge exercise introduces the Obliques to the group of stabilizing muscles.

Lunge Complimentary Exercises  

Complimentary exercises are exercises that would work well with the lunge, i..e, using complimentary muscle groups.   

  • Smith Good-Morning. This is an isolated movement for developing the hamstrings which will aid when performing lunge exercises and should be given equal exercise time as the quadriceps.
  • Smith Straight Leg Dead Lift. This is another hamstring exercise with additional stabilizers that will aid in performing lunges.
  • Sled Seated Leg Press. Is great for developing the Gluteus Maximus with quadriceps use as synergists and hamstrings as stabilizers. This exercise is great for strengthening the gluts for helping with lunge exercises.
  • Hyperextensions. Hyperextensions will strengthen the lower back which is use when performing lunge exercises.
  • Hamstring Curl. Hamstrings are extremely important to work for any type of athlete. Quadriceps and Hamstrings should be given equal attention to avoid injury. Hamstring curls is a great exercise to build and strengthen the leg biceps (hamstrings).

Bottom Line 

Lunges are a great addition to a leg workout as they help increase stability, balance which ultimately can help you add strength to other core power movements like the squat. By increasing strength in these movements you will see continued growth in the gym.Lunges are not always easy to do for the first time, but after a few sessions you will notice a big strength difference in your quadriceps and glutes. With Lunge exercises you will also work your body's core by using the stabilizing muscles in your stomach and back.  

About the Author  

Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn
Lynn Glenn is a 61 year old natural athlete who started training at the ripe young age of 48. Lynn Glenn is also an avid weightlifter who enjoys writing about hot topics in the areas of health, and fitness and developing further knowledge in the areas of disease prevention, nutritionanti aging and personal training. Lynn Glenn lives and trains in Southern California, and serves as a tremendous inspiration for many "mature" weightlifters in the gym that are trying to look better, feel better, and beat father time!  To contact Lynn, visit Lynn at


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