What is a lunge exercise?

A lunge is a lower body exercise that involves stepping and bending your front and back leg. To perform a lunge stand straight up facing forward with your spine and pelvis in a neutral position. Take a step forward with a leg, take a long enough step so that when you bend your knee, the knee is not forward of the toe, bend your back knee until it almost touches the floor, keep your torso and spine in a neutral position, then return to your starting position.  

A lunge is a great leg exercise. It comes in many different forms. The basic lunge occurs when you step forward as far as you can with the rear leg used as the bend and stabilize leg. It looks sort of like a long stride. Hips are forward toes pointed forward. Hands are on your hips and dip down bending you rear leg and keeping the front leg at a 90 degree angle. The rear foot will be pivoted on the toe and the upper body is in straight alignment.



The lunge is one of the most effective lower body exercises. You can perform a lunge while holding free weights, resistance bands or simply using your own body weight as resistance. You can also perform a lunge on an unstable surface like a BOSU to make the exercise more difficult and focus on balance training as well.

How to Do It:

  • Stand in a split-stance (one leg forward, one leg back).
  • Bend knees and lower body into a lunge position insuring the front knee and back knee are at 90 degree angles.
  • Keep the weight in your heels (this activates your glutes), then push back up to the starting position.

You can also vary the exercise by performing back lunges and side lunges as well.

A lunge exercise is a very effectve lower body exercise.  It is performed in the method described below:

1. Stand with feet straight and shoulder-width apart.

2. Lunge forward, landing on heel of lunge foot - foot straight, knee bent at 90 degree angle. Back leg also bent at 90 degree angle, heel lifted off floor.
3. Push off heel of front foot onto back leg.
4. Return to start position.  Repeat

There are several variatons that involve changing the plane of motion, balancing, or plyometrics.  As you progress, try holding dumbbells while performing the lunge to increase the challenge.

A lunge is a great lower body exercise which also incorporates a certain degree of balance and stabilization to complete properly.  Belief it or not a lunge is something we do many times throughout the day without even realizing it.  Climbing stairs for example, is one version of lunge. One of the things to know about a lunge, is that it is simply a modified version of a squat.  Biomechanically, one should look the same lunging as they do squatting, with the exception of one leg placed behind the body to simply serve as a kickstand.  The load should be placed on the front leg to help emphasize the collective use of the glutes, quadriceps, and calves.  During the lunge, it is also important to keep the torso parallel to the tibia, or lower leg. So you should be bent over slighlty, not bent through the spine but at the hip joint.  Again, this will ensure that your body is actually using the glute to do most of the work and not the quadriceps.  If you perform a lunge with your torso completely upright, chances are you are primarily loading the quadriceps and the glute is doing very little. Many people also feel knee pain while lunging, the interesting note is that most knee pain is actually felt in the trailing leg, or the leg which is behind the body.  Again, if your torso is completely upright you are not loading the joints the way they are designed to be and you could be overstressing the knee on the back leg.  There should be little weight felt on the rear leg.
There is an interesting myth out, which states the knee should not go over the toe.  In all my years in personal training I have yet to see someones leg simply fall off or anything if this occurs. In fact, to ascend and descend stairs properly the knee must travel over the toe to a certain degree. Although, there could be problems during the lunge if the calves are limiting the amount of motion at the ankle joint.  Before performing the lunge use self myofascial release (or self massage) and static stretching on the calf to ensure this is not limiting your lunge.
As always, before beginning an exercise program consult a qualified individual to perform the necessary assessment to promote a safe exercise program.
The lunge is a great exercise that targets your lower body. To properly perform a forward lunge, begin standing up nice and tall with your feet slightly apart. Hands can be resting on your hips, or down by your side. Take a big step forward, keeping your upper body straight as much as possible. Make sure that you knee stays inline with your front foot and does not come forward over your toes. When the thigh of your front leg is parallel to the floor, push through the heel of your front foot and return to the start position. To make the lunge more challenging, progress the exercise by holding a pair of dumbbells in each hand.

Variations: A bigger step forward will engage more of your glutes. A smaller step forward will engage more of the quadriceps.

Continue Learning about Types Of Exercise

Health Experts Urge Americans to Move More, Sit Less
Health Experts Urge Americans to Move More, Sit Less
Americans need to move more and sit less. That’s the clear-cut message from government health officials who updated their long-standing physical activ...
Read More
How do I perform a face down opposite arm/leg raise?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
Position yourself on your hands and knees.  Slowly draw-in your navel up towards your spine and tuck...
More Answers
How do I perform an alternating arm single leg shoulder V raise?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
Stand on one leg with your foot pointed straight ahead and knees slightly bent.  draw-in your navel ...
More Answers
Why Should I Consult My Doctor Before Starting an Exercise Program?
Why Should I Consult My Doctor Before Starting an Exercise Program?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.