These eight lunge variations are specially designed to whip your lower half into shape from all angles. But we’ve (pardon the pun) taken it one step further and arranged them into specific workouts so you can better reach your goals. Want to slim and shape? Check out routine No. 1. Want to build and define? Do routine No. 2. Use each one for four to six weeks, or alternate using one each week for variety.
Most women have a love-hate relationship with lunges — you hate to do them but love the results. It’s understandable: Lunges are flippin’ hard: They use multiple muscle groups at once, and they require balance, coordination and strength. But all those challenges make lunges one of the most effective moves you can do for your lower body — period.
“Lunges provide the opportunity to strengthen the legs individually,” says Rachel Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in Newhall, Calif., and author of Drop Two Sizes (St. Martin’s Press, 2013). “Working one leg at a time prevents you from compensating with your stronger leg, so performing single-leg exercises such as lunges should be an essential part of any lower-body routine.”
Do ’Em Right
All lunges generally use the same rules — though they might move in different directions — so here is what you need to know from head to toe to master the proper form:
Setup: Stand with your feet wide apart, front foot flat on the ground, rear foot up on your toes. Stand up tall, with your shoulders back and your chest lifted. Center your weight between your feet. Tighten your abs and square your hips.
Action: Bend both knees and lower straight down toward the floor; do not pitch forward over your front thigh. Keep your front knee over your toes as you lower, shinbone perpendicular to the floor. Keep your torso vertical and your shoulders back; do not lean forward. Lower until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, then reverse the move to stand back up to the start.
Goblet Lateral Lunge
Setup: Hold a dumbbell with both hands at your chest, elbows bent.
Action: Take a big step to the right with your right foot, keeping your left leg straight. Bend your right knee and lower your hips until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Push through your right heel and stand back up to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Keep both feet pointing forward for stability and effectiveness.
Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat
Setup: Hold a barbell across your shoulders and stand with your back to a raised platform, such as a bench or plyo box. Extend one leg behind you and place your toes on the platform.
Action: Keeping your chest lifted and back neutral, bend your front knee and lower toward the floor until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Reverse the move and stand back up to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Be careful not to lean forward or back; stay upright to protect your back and engage your abs.
Setup: Stand upright with your hands behind your head, elbows flared.
Left Action: Take a big step forward with your right leg and bend both knees, lunging deeply. At the bottom, rotate your torso to the left, reaching your right elbow to your left knee. Untwist and stand back up. Push off your front foot and return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Make sure to get your balance before you twist.
Dumbbell Curtsy Lunge
Setup: Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Action: Using your right leg, take a big step behind and across your body to the left side, bending both knees to lower to the floor. When your front thigh is parallel with the floor, reverse the move and return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Keep your hips and shoulders square throughout for best results.
Bosu Dumbbell Lunge
Setup: Place a Bosu on the floor, dome side down. Stand 3 feet away from the Bosu holding a set of dumbbells at your sides, then place your right foot in the center of the Bosu. Get your balance, centering your weight between your right foot and your left toes.
Action: Bend both knees, lowering slowly to maintain balance as you drop toward the floor. When your thigh is parallel to the ground, extend both legs to return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Use a lighter weight until you get the hang of the Bosu.
: Stand in a wide lunge with your right leg forward, arms at your sides. (not shown)
Action: Bend your knees and load up, then explode off the ground and into the air. Switch legs midair so you land with your left leg forward, right foot back. Land softly, compressing right into another lunge and repeat, alternating sides.
Tip: Use your arms to help launch you out of your lunge and into the air.
Around-the-Clock Barbell Lunge
Setup: Hold a barbell across your shoulders and stand with your feet slightly apart.
Action: Starting with the right side, take a large step forward and lunge down at 12 o’clock. Return to the start, then lunge laterally to 3 o’clock. Return to the start, then lunge behind you to 6 o’clock and return to the start. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
Tip: Take your time and don’t rush each part of this move.