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How to Do Lunges for Strong Hips & Legs

BY Sari Terranova

Lunges are a powerhouse exercise with variations and modifications for all levels. If your goals include better lower body strength, it pays to lunge.

Lunge Your Way to a Powerful Posterior

When my clients see lunges in their programming for that day’s session, they often give me the same pleading look. We get it—lunges aren’t exactly a walk in the park for some people. But here’s the thing: that burn you feel during them? It’s a sign you’re pushing yourself, conquering the challenge, and making gains.

Despite their simplicity, lunges are a powerhouse exercise. While they’re mostly a leg-dominant movement, lunges can offer huge benefits in terms of core strength, ankle and hip mobility, and even cardio work. Their versatility allows you to get a different training stimulus just by changing the direction or plane of movement.

Being a unilateral movement, they’re also a one-stop shop for improving balance, correcting imbalances, and boosting overall stability—all crucial for nailing heavier lifts. Lunges lend themselves well to progressive overload since you can modify weight, rotation, and tempo. 

Whether your goal is posterior chain power, overall strength, mobility, or general athleticism, lunges are an excellent addition to your training program. 

Muscles Used When Lunging

Lunges don’t just work your legs; they engage your entire lower body, especially your glutes. The standard lunge primarily works the glute max, hams, quads, calves, and core. 

Different variations target different glute muscles between the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. 

Lateral lunges engage the glute med, glute min, and hip adductors, while the glute max does most of the work in a sagittal (forward/backward) plane. The glute med and min stabilize the hips and are activated for frontal plane movements, when your leg is moved away from your body.

How to Do Lunges with Good Form

Before we dive into the variations, let’s nail down the basics of a standard lunge:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, stacked under your hips. 
  2. Brace your core to keep a neutral spine and neck, and step forward (or backward) with one foot, bringing your back knee to the ground. 
  3. Keep your abs tight and weight on your front foot. Both knees should be bent at about 90 degrees with your back heel off of the ground. 
  4. Push through your front foot (not off your back foot) to hinge your hips and return to starting position.
  5. You can repeat all reps on one leg before switching to the other side or do alternating lunges.

Top Lunge Variations

Front Foot Elevated Reverse Lunge

Elevating your front foot adds intensity while sparing your knees. Keep that core engaged!

Step Up to Reverse Lunge

Elevate your heart rate with this combo move that targets quads or hamstrings, depending on the box height.

Walking Lunges

Go the extra mile—literally—with walking lunges. Add weight or speed for an extra challenge.

Kettlebell Lateral Lunges

Target outer glutes and inner thighs with this lateral movement. Focus on form to feel the burn.

TRX Curtsy Lunges

Engage your upper body and deepen the stretch with TRX straps for a killer glute workout.

    Get the Most out of Your Lunge Workout

    1. Rep Ranges: Adjust your rep range based on your goals and don’t be afraid to add more weight. Heavy lunges build massive strength.
    2. Hand Placement: When not holding weight, experiment with hands on your hips or in front of your chest to find what works best for your balance.
    3. Alternating vs. One Side at a Time: Try alternating each step to increase your heart rate and challenge your balance.
    4. “Train tracks” not “Tightrope”: Avoid stepping one foot in front of the other like you’re taking a sobriety test. Step in line with your hips.

    Lunges may not be your favorite exercise, but they’re effective, versatile, and can be done anywhere. So, embrace the challenge and watch your posterior chain strength and stability soar.

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    About Sari Terranova

    Sari Terranova is a total supermom, CPT, and nutrition coach who introduces women and youth athletes to the power of weightlifting, bodybuilding, powerlifting, and functional strength training. She’s got 20 years of classroom teaching experience and a lifetime of love for college football.

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