Lunges right? There are just so many of them: side lunges and curtsy lunges, step-up lunges and lunge walks. Lunges with barbells, with dumbbells, with kettlebells. There are just too many. And no wonder, because the lunge is a foundational leg strength move. Consistently performing lunges can give you quick results, but it is always important to mix it up because just one kind might not hit all the muscles you want to. In this article, we explore the best lunge variations and which ones you absolutely must do.
Curtsy lunges: This is my favourite lunge because it is just the right amount of challenging, fixes the gait, and hits a small muscle called the gluteus medius, which can otherwise get ignored in the hustle-bustle of a conventional leg workout. A curtsy lunge looks like a curtsy—that little polite bow plus lunge reserved for the royals—but in this case, the royalty is you in the mirror. It helps your balance because the lunge goes across the body and is also basically a reverse lunge. This means the body is stepping back rather than moving forward like it does in a conventional lunge.
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A shape.com article, How To Do A Curtsy Lunge To Build Your Booty, quotes pregnancy and postpartum athleticism coach Antonia Henry on the benefits of the curtsy lunge: “Your glute medius is responsible for hip stability and hip neutrality when your feet are on the ground. It’s perfect for people who are invested in making a well-rounded bottom.”
Jumping lunges: Explosive exercises are important to maintain muscle health, speed, and agility. Adding these are important so that your muscles don’t just look big, but can also function in all situations, including sport. The jumping lunge, where you jump and switch legs mid-air, is also excellent for coordination and keeps the mind-muscle connection sharp.
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“Plyometric exercises have the ability to increase one’s ability to eccentrically contract to control the body as it goes into joint flexion. This can pay huge dividends when looking to increase strength, power, and the transfer of energy in dynamic and athletic movements like sprinting, sports, weightlifting, etc.,” says a barbend.com articletitled 4 Benefits Of Jumping Lunges.
If you are involved in activity that needs movement, control, and speed, like badminton or football or other sports, the jumping lunge—also known as the split jump—is a perfect warm-up exercise as well. Here’s a proper guide to learning how to do a jumping lunge:
Lateral side lunges: Simple, precise, and extremely important, the side lunge will move the body in the frontal plane, just like the curtsy lunge would move it in the transverse plane. However, strong legs go beyond just working the hamstrings, glutes, and quads. The adductor muscles, located across the inner thighs, are also overlooked in most workouts. Those who have played sport and pulled the adductor/groin muscle will know how long it takes for the strength to come back, and how easy it is to injure. Lateral lunges will work those muscles in a dynamic way.
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“Your inner thighs help bring your legs back to your body's midline. Some other unsung side lunge heroes include your foot and ankle muscles, which work hard to absorb and redirect the force as you move through the exercise. It also strengthens your calves: the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles,” says on setforset.com on the benefits of lateral lunges.
The main mistake people make is not shifting the weight on the working leg during the side lunge. The video below gives you tips to get it right, which also include keeping the toes pointed forward rather than out when performing it:
Step-up and reverse lunge combos: We’ve gone across the body, up in the air, and side to side. Now we add hops and step-ups or a climb. Some bonus information before you do a step-up and reverse lunge is that you can always try the runner’s lunge as a precursor. This is a conventional lunge in which you explode into a hop at the end. Some people may find this easier, while others will find the step-up plus reverse lunge easier to learn. One does not need equipment, and the other needs a bench or a box at least.
The step-up is an exercise in itself, in which you carefully step up onto a bench or a box, but adding a reverse lunge immediately after you get off is where the magic happens: A catalystathletics.com article calls the combo “a great exercise for covering several bases of lower body accessory work without adding more training time. It strengthens all hip and leg musculature, improving stability of the hip, and especially if weighted, leg strength in weak positions.” This is because you are reverse lunging with the same foot that will do the step-up with the opposite knee coming up to the chest to add to the momentum and shape of the exercise.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.
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