Functional fitness in strength training is all about making sure you have no muscular imbalances – and lunges are the perfect move to prevent that from happening. Here’s how to do them properly, and four variations that will blast your quads, glutes and hamstrings.
Exercise should be as much about functional fitness as it is raw power. We work out in the gym so that we can take that energy, mobility and strength into the real world to complete everyday tasks. With that in mind, we’ve got to make sure that both sides of the body are equal.
That’s where lunges come into their own, even if they might usually be overlooked in our workout routines.
Not only can you work on each leg individually but you add weights or jumps to make the move more dynamic and compound (exercising more than one muscle at once). They’re a great foundation for more complex moves like single-leg deadlifts or pistol squats.
WHICH MUSCLES AM I WORKING?
- Quadriceps (front thighs)
- Hamstrings (back thighs)
- Glutes (bum)
HOW TO DO THE PERFECT LUNGE
- Stand up tall, hands on your hips
- Step forwards with your right foot so that nearly all of your weight in on the right
- Your left leg is outstretched behind with just your toes on the ground
- Bend your right knee until it reaches a 90’ angle – making sure that it doesn’t go beyond your toes
- Bend your left knee at the same time so that it hovers just above the ground
- Lift your front lunging leg back to the starting position and go again
Repeat for 12 reps on the right leg before switching to do 12 reps on the left.
TIPS FOR CORRECT LUNGE FORM
Slow it down
It’s all about the range of motion rather than sprinting your way through the move so lunge mindfully.
Lunging is all about the angles
Eventually, you want to form a 90’ angle between your thighs and calves.
Keep your knees behind your toes
Weight should be back in your heels at all times.
Engage the core
Keep those abs locked to give you greater balance.
Keep your knees facing forwards
You don’t want them to face out to the sides but keep everything aligned.
1. Jumping lunges
Instead of lunging on one leg then another, jumping lunges have you switching between legs.
1. Get into your lunge position then lightly jump to switch legs over, taking care as you come back down to land softly (on your heel in the front foot and on your toes in the back foot)
2. Use your arms to propel you up and safely down
2. Split squat
Don’t be fooled by the name, this is most definitely a lunge. This time, you don’t have to move your feet at all until it’s time to change sides.
1. Get into your lunge stand and keep your feet in place, lift yourself up and down. It’s the back leg that does the most dynamic work here
2. Add weight to make it more challenging
3. Walking lunge
1. Instead of lunging on the spot, lunge forward and then lunge with the other leg to take the next step
2. Add some weight (a dumbbell in each hand or a heavy kettlebell) to increase the load. Be careful not to slam your knee into the floor as you go
4. Skater lunge
Instead of lunging forwards, this is a backward lunge with a difference – your back foot can’t touch the ground. It’s fantastic for improving balance as well as leg strength.
1. Stand up straight and take a step backward
2. Bend towards the ground, back knee hovering off the ground but don’t let the foot touch
3. Then come back up to standing
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Images: Getty, Instagram
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.
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