“Leg day” is one of the most intimidating two-word phrases for some gym bros, sparking a nightmare of lower body crushing squats, leg presses and deadlifts. Not only are these exercises hard—they start to get boring when your body is stuck in one place and your feet are pinned to the floor. But leg day doesn’t have to be a drag. Add some movement and get a more balanced lower body workout with lunges.
Lunges allow you to train unilaterally, or focus on one limb (in this case, the leg) at a time. This type of training is essential because it more closely mimics the movements you use in your daily life, rather than using bilateral movements on both sides of your body at the same time. Depending on the variation of the lunge you choose, you can also add more movement to your workout. “With lunges, you get a little ballistic, you get a little movement, and when you’re doing movement, you can grab almost every part of your leg,” Men’s Health Ebenezer Samuel, Director of Fitness, CSCS
Whether you’re doing bodyweight training or holding heavy weights, lunges are better than taking a few steps forward or back. Be sure to pay attention to the subtleties shown in this guide by Samuel and MH Fitness Editor Brett Williams, NASM-CPT, and then put the move into practice for a more comprehensive Leg day.
Benefits of doing lunges
One of the main benefits of lunges is that it will Introduce some movement into your lower body training session. Whether you’re doing lunges or just walking forward and then back, you have to rely on balance and coordination to stay upright rather than keeping your feet on the floor.
Even better, the unilateral aspect of the lunge means you can get in on one leg at a time. This can help address any muscle imbalances, making your bilateral movements (like squats) better.
How to do a lunge
Follow these table tips to learn how to perform a standard lunge. Once you’ve read the step-by-step instructions, follow some of Samuel’s more advanced tips for more in-depth practice.
●Put your feet shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your hips and shoulder blades to keep your gaze neutral at a point directly in front of you.
●You can perform lunges with just your body weight, or hold in multiple positions using various tools such as dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells. For simplicity, start by holding a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand at hip level.
● Take a step forward with one leg slightly out, heel first. Try to avoid hitting your knees on the ground. Keeping your chest upright, bend your knees at right angles to your legs. Open your anterior glutes to help protect your knees.
● Use your front heel off the ground and return to the starting position. Squeeze your core for balance, keeping your torso in a firm upright position.
●Perform 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps on each leg, or 45 seconds with 15 seconds rest for 5 minutes.
Eb said: Open your hips as you step forward, allowing your knees to move slightly outward. People often have a habit of moving the knee toward the midline, which is the last thing you want. In the same way that you push your knees out when you squat, you want to do the same thing when doing lunges to protect your knee health in the long run.
Eb said: Don’t let your chest collapse, and don’t let your uppers drop. Your body is a momentum generator in a sprint. This is a leg move, and you want it to be driven by your legs, not trying to shake your upper body or shoulders, or bend forward to get out of bed.
Consider keeping your core tight and shoulder blades down and inward in a standard lunge; maintain this rigidity as you lower and stand.
No back knee slam
Eb said: The lunge has a dynamic character, but it’s still a controlled movement. Show and control your body as you enter the lunge, making sure your back knee doesn’t hit or hit the ground. You should have plenty of control as you lower your back knee an inch off the ground.
Eb says: If you are uncomfortable with forward sprints, switch to reverse sprints, which are actually superior to forward sprints in many ways. It takes pressure off the front knee and it forces you to be spatially aware as you step back.
The best part about the forward lunge (and why I love it so much): it stretches your hips more naturally when you stand up, reflecting our need for more movement in real life.
Once you feel comfortable with the move, try these variations of the lunge.
Walking lunges Jump lunge Pulse Lunge
Men’s Health’s fitness editor Brett Williams, a NASM-CPT certified coach and former pro athlete football player and tech journalist, divides his workout time Between strength and conditioning training, martial arts and running. You can find his work elsewhere on Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.
Ebenzer Samuel, CSCS, is the fitness director of Men’s Health and has over 10 years of training experience with certified trainers. He logs training time for NFL players and track and field athletes, and his current training regimen includes weight training, HIIT conditioning, and yoga. Before joining Men’s Health in 2017, he was a sports columnist and a technology columnist for the New York Daily News.
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