Perhaps no other exercise targets glutes in the same, maximally efficient way as the lunge — and the unilateral nature of the move is a big reason why.
“These one-leg-at-a-time lunge variations mobilize your right and left gluteus muscles individually while also activating your thighs, lower back and core to develop overall balance, coordination and stability,” says Kelly Von Schleis, certified health coach, personal trainer and IT health-care consultant.
“Another advantage to unilateral exercises is that you can correct imbalances and misalignments,” she adds, “since we usually tend to have a stronger, more dominant side that takes over during bilateral exercises.”
Von Schleis has field-tested the following workout herself and has seen her own best booty-defining results by challenging herself with heavier weights and the “one second up, three second down” rep cadence she describes in a moment. As Von Schleis puts it: “Be prepared to feel the afterburn as you build lean muscle and reduce fat in 30 minutes or less!”
Equipment required: Set of dumbbells and an exercise band (Von Schleis recommends Booty Bands dumbbells and bands. Shoppers who use the link provided will get a 10 percent discount.)
Suggested warm-up: Do the following circuit of bodyweight moves — 10 forward lunges, rotating your upper body toward the forward leg; 10 curtsy lunges; 10 lateral side-to-side lunges; and 10 rear lunges with overhead reach (leaning toward your front leg).
Workout overview: Do each of the following four circuits, which divide the workload so you’re focusing on one leg at a time during each circuit. In Circuit 1, you’ll focus on the right leg, then in Circuit 2 the left, then in Circuit 3 the right and finally in Circuit 4 the left.
For each circuit, you’ll do two rounds total, 10 reps per exercise. Try not to rest at all between exercises within each circuit, and then only one to two minutes max between circuits.
“Each of these series starts with two strength-oriented lunges, with a plyometric cardio-burst jumping lunge finisher,” Von Schleis explains. “For the strength moves, focus on a slow, steady three-count negative and an explosive one-count positive rep. Try to pyramid up the dumbbell weight you use from circuit to circuit, and during the curtsy lunge, consider adding a Booty Band around your legs, just above the knees, for additional glute and hip activation.”
Kelly Von Schleis’ Lovely Lunge Workout
Circuit 1 (right side):
|Forward Lunge (right foot forward)||2||10|
|Curtsy Lunge (left leg goes behind right)||2||10|
|Split-Leg Lunge Jump (right leg in front)||2||10|
Circuit 2 (left side):
|Forward Lunge (left foot forward)||2||10|
|Curtsy Lunge (right leg goes behind left)||2||10|
|Split-Leg Lunge Jump (left leg in front)||2||10|
Circuit 3 (right side, left leg planted):
|Reverse-Lunge Pulse (right leg steps back)||2||10|
|Lateral Lunge + Knee Lift (right leg steps to the right)||2||10|
|Split-Leg Lunge Jump (right leg steps back)||2||10|
Circuit 4 (left side, right leg planted):
|Reverse-Lunge Pulse (left leg steps back)||2||10|
|Lateral Lunge + Knee Lift (left leg steps to the left)||2||10|
|Split-Leg Lunge Jump (left leg steps back)||2||10|
1. Forward Lunge
How-To: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your feet about shoulder-width apart side by side, your body aligned from head to hips to heels. Step forward with one foot and bend your forward knee to slowly sink deep into your lunge, making sure that your front knee doesn’t pass your toes at any point during the descent. Stop an inch or two short of your rear knee touching the floor, then powerfully reverse direction by driving through the heel of your forward foot to return to the standing position.
Kelly’s Pointers: Maintaining your posture is key — you want a strong, focused movement with tall “ballerina-style” poise from your hips to the crown of your head. Throughout, think about keeping your pelvis neutral, chest high and back straight.
2. Curtsy Lunge
How-To: With your feet set a little wider than hip-width apart side by side on the floor, step with your left leg behind your right leg — as if you’re curtsying — and engage the glutes and lower your hips until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your chest high, back flat and core tight. As you begin to straighten your right leg, drive through that heel and return your left foot to the starting position.
Kelly’s Pointers: At the bottom of each rep, lightly tap your left knee to the floor if it’s comfortable for you. That gives me a goal and helps me ensure I’m going through a complete range of motion. Your mind-muscle focus should be fixated on your glutes, quadriceps and inner thighs flexing and extending throughout the exercise.
3. Split-Leg Lunge Jump
How-To: Assume a lunge position with your right leg forward and knee bent and your left leg extended behind you, toes on the floor and heel lifted. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, hanging at your sides. Now drop your hips to bend down into a deeper lunge and forcefully jump back up, bringing your legs together midair and then returning to your right leg forward and your left leg back, landing in a lunge and instantly lowering into the next rep.
Kelly’s Pointers: Your goal is to generate power during this exercise. Holding at the bottom at your lowest point, explode up and come immediately back into your low lunge without straightening your legs or resting. Do 10 consecutive jumps in a row to complete your set. You should empty the tank on this exercise and need a rest after each set.
4. Reverse-Lunge Pulse
How-To: From a standing position, with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, step backward with your right leg into a reverse-lunge position. Lower yourself as deep as you can manage, and at your lowest point, with your back knee elevated a couple of inches off the floor, pulse twice — just 1 inch of movement up and then down — without letting that knee touch the floor. After those pulses, drive through the heel of your forward leg to return to standing.
Kelly’s Pointers: If you’re not actively mindful, your lunge form can quickly break down. Be sure to keep your front knee in line with that ankle so your knee forms a 90-degree angle and your lower leg is directly perpendicular to the floor. As with any lunge, don’t let your forward knee extend beyond your toes.
5. Lateral Lunge + Knee Lift
How-To: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, take a long step out to the right side with your right foot, bending that knee to a 90-degree angle to lower your hips toward the floor. Your trailing knee will be extended straight, with that foot remaining in contact with the floor. At the bottom, return to a standing position by pushing through the heel of your right leg, generating enough power to continue through a knee lift, bringing that right knee as high as possible and then lowering it to the floor. Continue stepping out to the same side for 10 reps.
Kelly’s Pointers: Take a deep breath in either before you step or as you step to the side, and as you push through the heel on your bent leg back to standing, forcefully exhale — doing so will help further engage your deep abdominals and maintain a taut, tight core as you finish each rep with the knee lift.