It’s a favourite among women who like to do stretches and floor exercises. Muscle-bound men shun it in favour of squatting and benching. But do not underestimate the power of lunges. Even those with well-developed legs will find it hard if done in a challenging way.
The lunge is a very simple exercise. Simply take one giant step forward, keeping the other leg behind, then lower yourself by bending at the leading knee. That’s it, you’ve done a lunge.
Watch out for your knee. To prevent long-term joint injury, ensure your leading knee is never in front of your foot. The lower leg should be vertically straight, not bent slightly forward.
Benefits of lunges
There are two advantages to the lunge. It works your glutes, quads and hamstrings but also gives you a good stretch, unlike many other exercises. If you have never done it before or not for a long time, take it easy at first as the stretch can make your legs very sore for the next few days.
Making it harder
There are several ways you could do this exercise. You could simply take one step after another forward, alternating each leg. If too easy, you could hold a dumbbell or weight plate in each hand. You could also place a barbell over your shoulders. This make you even less stable, which may or may not be a good thing.
You could also simply step forward and then back again, especially if you have little space. This version is slightly easier. Another variation involves the Smith machine. You take the lunge position underneath and then lower and raise yourself with the bar over your shoulder. Not the best version as you have very limited range of motion.
A very effective way to make the lunge much harder without handling heavier weight is to use a Swiss ball or a Bosu ball. With the Swiss ball, you place your rear leg over it, thus giving you less stability. In this case, you can only lower and raise yourself – limited range of motion again but you could also add a barbell over your shoulder. With the Bosu ball, you place it on the floor with the flat side facing up. Lunge forward, step on it and bend the knee, then step back again. You can hold dumbbells in your hands to make it harder.
The unstable Bosu ball makes this version very hard but you can make it even harder. In fact this is my favourite way of doing the lunge.
Do all your leg exercises first: squats, leg press, leg extensions and all then move on to the lunge using the Bosu ball. The lunge is already an unstable exercise and the Bosu ball makes it even harder to maintain equilibrium. By doing all your leg exercises first, your legs will be so tired that by the time you do the lunges you will find it extremely difficult to hold your balance. Hold some weight in your hands or a barbell over your shoulders to make it even harder.
To put the finishing touch, you could try running afterwards. Not for the faint-hearted!
Your legs should be shaking when you get out of the gym. Who said lunges were for wimps?
Image credit: Simi Valley Boot Camp