15 lunge variations and proper lunge form

Sharing proper lunge exercise form, some of my favorite lunge variations, and how to prevent knee pain when performing lunges.

Hi friends! How’s the day treating you so far? We’re having a good morning over here. Liv’s first pack of distance learning work was due this am and I have a conference call before we head into the usual impromptu fun. I’ve been using this list as a guideline for when we hit a little afternoon slump and recently brought out some of the toys I stashed away from birthdays and Christmas. (When they get a ridiculous amount of toys/gifts, I save some in the playroom for a rainy day. Lots of proverbial rainy days over here.)

For today’s post, I wanted to share some variations on one of my favorite exercises: the lunge! Lunges are a great way to work your quads and glutes. I ALWAYS include some lunge variation in my leg workouts. The key to continually seeing results: constantly switching things up. If you love lunges, like yours truly, a solid way to avoid plateaus is to change up the exercises you’re completing. Some easy ways to do this: add extra resistance, change the tempo of the exercise, or try a different variation that works the same muscle groups. Instead of doing regular stationary lunges, I’m constantly changing it up. This is how you keep the body guessing, avoid plateaus, and become stronger and more efficient over time.

15 lunge variations and proper lunge form

Proper lunge form and how to prevent knee pain when you lunge. fitnessista.com

Proper lunge exercise form and common mistakes:

When you complete a lunge, you’ll want 90 degree angles for your front and back legs. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart (like you’re standing on train tracks, not a balance beam) and you have proper posture. Relax your shoulders away from your ears, drop your ribs as you engage your core, and keep your pelvis neutral.

Avoid tucking the hips under or arching the back. As you sink down into your lunge, inhale, and as you exhale, squeeze your legs. I like to think about my legs as a pair of scissors and I’m zipping and pulling them together as I rise.

Preventing knee pain when you lunge:

– Start with no weight. When you’re first starting off with this exercise, try it with bodyweight only to get used to the range of motion. You can also always hold onto the wall or a sturdy chair for balance. A helpful way to make sure you have a wide enough stance: come onto your knees and step one foot forward. Make sure the front knee is stacked over the front ankle. Tuck your back toes and rise. This will ensure that you have 90 stacked joints to help protect your knees and ankles.

– When you’re learning how to lunge again with proper form, you’re re-training your body. You may be used to doing lunges with a super short stance (which is very common!) or letting your front knee shoot forward. As you re-train the body, it might feel a little awkward. Make sure that the newness doesn’t equate with pain. You shouldn’t feel pain or popping as you lunge.

– Watch your knee position. Make sure as you sink down, your front knee stays stacked over the front ankle. If it’s shooting forward, this puts a lot of pressure on the knee joint. Decrease the range of motion until you get the hang of it!

– Keep your core engaged and maintain good posture. This is also a balance exercise since you have staggered feet. You’re engaging your core to keep yourself stabilized! Relax your shoulders and make sure you aren’t pushing your chest forward.

15 of my favorite lunge variations:

1) Classic walking lunge or stationary lunge

Make sure that if you’re doing a walking lunge, set up proper form before you sink down into the lunge. Go for efficiency instead of speed.

2) Curtsy lunge to knee lift

Start with one leg forward, toes angled out 45 degrees. Step your other foot totally back behind the front, so that your foot is behind the opposite shoulder. Sink low into a curtsy lunge, then as you exhale, lift the back leg out to the side, bending the knee. Really think about squeezing your glutes to lift your leg. Make sure that you take a nice big step back and to the side for your curtsy lunge.

3) Single-leg lunge

Stand in front of a chair or a bench, with the chair or bench about 3 feet behind you. Place one foot on top of the chair of bench. As you lunge, watch the front knee to keep it stacked above your front ankle.

4) Low lunge to squat

For this exercise, you aren’t rising in between switching – keep your body LOW and knees bent the entire time. Torso stays upright, step back into your lunge, then keep the front knee bent as you step out to the side to squat. Step the opposite foot behind and lunge. Watch the front knees to make sure they don’t extend past the toes.

5) Lateral lunge and side leg lift

Hold one dumbbell and take a big step out with your left leg so that your foot angles out at 45 degrees. Your right leg stays straight and strong with toes pointed forward. Think about sinking your hips down and back as your keep your core tight and chest lifted. As you rise, use your glutes to lift your leg out to the side.

6) Walking lunge with hip extension

For your lunge setup, make sure your feet are hip distance apart, and think about sinking down instead of forward as you lunge. Watch the front knee to make sure it doesn’t extend past your toes. When you lift up to come to standing and switch legs, lift the back leg up behind you (squeeze your booty!) before bringing it forward.

7) Lunge with a pulse

Hold the lowest part of your lunge (both legs at 90 degrees) and pulse up two inches and down two inches.

8) Tempo lunges

Change the tempo of the exercise: down for two counts and up for two, down for four counts and up for four, down quickly and rise slowly, down slowly and rise quickly, or two quick lunges followed by two slow lunges.

9) Rotating lunge to plié squat 

Start in lunge position, making sure your front knee doesn’t bend in front of the toe and keep your legs parallel to each other—like a train track, not a tightrope. Rotate to the side, and sink into your lunge before rotating to the front to complete a plié squat.

10) Jumping lunges

Start in lunge position, making sure your front knee doesn’t bend in front of the toe and keep your legs parallel to each other—like a train track, not a tightrope. Make sure to land with a soft knee and sink into your lunge before springing up. If the impact is too much, try quick and efficient lunges instead.

11) Crescent lunge with back knee bend and straighten

Start in a crescent lunge with front leg bent at 90 degrees (keep your front knee stacked over your front ankle), and your back leg straight and strong. Bend your back knee slightly, before pressing it back to straighten your leg.

12) Stability ball lateral lunge

Perform your lateral lunge keeping your straight leg on top of a stability ball.

13) Stability ball single leg lunge

Stand about 3-ft in front of the stability ball and place one foot back on the ball. (Stand close to a wall if you need to for balance.) Sink into a lunge position, making sure your torso stays upright and your front knee remains stacked over your front ankle.

14) Clock lunge

Complete a forward lunge, followed by a lateral lunge, and then a reverse lunge. For the reverse lunge, make sure you take a big step back. Repeat, leading with the opposite side.

15) Reverse lunge and kick

Slide a big step back to come into a lunge position. Watch your alignment and make sure your front knee is stacked over your front ankle, and your chest is lifted with a tight core. Focus on sinking DOWN, instead of forward. Slide that foot back to center (keeping a slight bend in your opposite leg) and flex the foot to kick in front of you. Repeat on the opposite side.

Tell me, friends: do you LOVE lunges or not so much?

What’s your favorite lunge variation?

Have a great morning and thanks for stopping by the blog today!


Photos: the Pilot 😉


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  1. adrianna on April 19, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    this post was super informative Gina! and very timely right now, with all of us doing home workouts. also, i LOVE lunges 🙂 and loved this post!

    • Fitnessista on April 20, 2020 at 12:59 am

      yay, so happy to hear you enjoyed it!

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