Lunges may be a common exercise, but they’re a lot harder than they look! Getting them right requires lower-body strength, core stability and a whole lotta balance. Getting it wrong can involve knee pain and injury.
Lunges are great for building strength and shaping your glutes, hamstrings and quads, and because you’re activating such big muscle groups, you’ll be burning fat, too. So let’s take your lunge form back to basics so you can get busy chasing those lower-body gains. Volume 90%
NAIL YOUR LUNGE FORM
Follow these steps and you’ll be lunging like a pro in no time!
- Step one leg out in front of your body – you don’t have to extend it too far, just take a comfortable step out. You want your legs spaced far enough apart that both knees form 90-degree angles when you lunge.
- Fix your eyes on a point directly in front of you to aid balance.
- Put your hands on your hips, engage your core and lock in a neutral torso and head.
- Drop your back knee toward the floor, only lowering to the point you feel comfortable. Make sure your front knee does not extend over your toes.
- Your front leg should be taking the bulk of your weight during the exercise, while your back leg helps to maintain balance.
- With your weight focused on your front foot, drive back up to standing.
To check and tweak your form, try lunging in front of a mirror or filming yourself doing the exercise.
HOW TO MODIFY LUNGES
Not quite nailing your lunges yet? Don’t feel bad! Lunges are more challenging than they look – especially for your balance and glute strength. Try these modifications to step it back, then you can build up to the full exercise.
Reminder: you don’t have to go all the way down on your first lunge! Keep your lunge dips shallow, only lowering to a point you can control the movement. Keep practising and you’ll build up the strength to go deeper.
As you go into a lunge, let your back knee slowly and softly drop all the way to the floor. Take a moment to breathe and reset, then drive back up again. This will help you lock in your lunge form and build strength for the full exercise.
If you’re struggling to maintain balance, try lunging with one arm on a solid item like the back of a chair for an assist.Volume 90%
If knee pain is limiting your lunges, try a single-leg glute bridge instead.
KNEE PAIN DURING LUNGES?
Knee pain during lunges is fairly common and usually caused by either incorrect form or weak muscles. Try these alternatives while you continue to work on your form and build your strength:
Removing the ‘step’ motion and making the exercise static can put less pressure on the knees. Assume the lunge position and drop your back knee to the floor as normal. When you rise out of the lunge, don’t step your feet together. Continue to rise up and down into your lunge without moving forward or backwards.
The glute bridge is a great low-impact exercise that works the glutes and hamstrings without straining the knees. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart, squeeze your glutes and push through your heels to lift your hips into the air. To work one leg at a time (like a lunge) simply hold one leg in the air while you perform the move.
Leg press machine
If you’re in the gym, you can use a very light weight on the leg press machine and use the equipment with one leg at a time. This will help you avoid knee pain that occurs during a lunge due to lack of balance or instability.Volume 90%
HOW TO MAKE LUNGES HARDER
So you’ve mastered the basic lunge. What’s next?
To up the challenge, just add weights. Grab 2 dumbbells and hold them at your side, keeping your shoulders back. As you lunge forward, this extra weight increases the challenge for your core.
Bulgarian split squats
To lunge to the next level, try doing Bulgarian split squats. This big lower-body strength move is set up similarly to lunges, but your back foot is elevated on a bench or chair. As you drop your back knee to lower your body, the elevation provides an extra challenge for your balance. You can then progress this move even further by adding weights.
COMMON LUNGE MISTAKES AND HOW TO FIX THEM
Check your form for any of these mistakes, and then follow my tips to repair your technique and prevent knee pain or injury.
Stance too narrow: This will quickly throw you off balance! Think about your feet being on train tracks, not one in front of the other on a tightrope. Widen your stance and keep your hips square as you lunge.
Front knee collapsing inward: You want to focus on keeping your front knee in line with your ankle to prevent pain as you lunge forward. Focus on pressing through your big toe, outer foot, and the outside of your hip to prevent your knee from caving inward. If you’re struggling to control it, build up to the full exercise by reducing the depth of your lunge, or holding onto the back of a sturdy chair as you go.
Torso twisting: Setting your hands on your hips will help you lock in an upright posture and engaged core for lunges. When you begin to lunge, don’t forget to use your toes to keep balance through the motion – doing the exercise in bare feet will help you get the hang of this.
Front knee too far forward: Your front knee extending over your toes can be a sign of a hip mobility issue. Step one is to work on stretching out tight hip flexors. When you return to the exercise, focus on staying as upright as possible, and reduce the depth of your lunges if required.