Lunges are a simple, easy and effective exercise that train your leg muscles including quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. It’s a really popular exercise and no equipment is required – all you need is a bit of space.
We asked Senior Physiotherapist, Beverley Gorbutt from Ascenti for her expert advice on how to get the technique right and common mistakes to watch out for.
To set up your lunge, take a long step forward or backwards. Your feet should be hip distance apart with your toes pointing forward.
To lunge, bend both knees at the same time. Lower your hips until your front knee is at a 90 degree angle with your upper leg parallel to the floor.
The back heel should be up off the floor, so your back leg is supported by the ball of your foot. The knees should stay in line with the feet.
Push your weight through your heels to bring yourself up to the starting position. Move straight down and straight up – an easy way to remind yourself of the correct technique is to think ‘elevator, not escalator’.
You should maintain a tall, long spine and keep your chest up, with your shoulders down and relaxed. Keep your hips square and eyes looking forward throughout.
When doing exercises like this it’s a good idea to set the number of lunges you want to perform, so you have a goal to work towards. For example, you could try doing 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg, then increase.
Remember, it’s better to do a smaller number of reps using the correct technique each time, than to keep going for ages but in the wrong way.
An easy way to up the intensity is to add weights, such as by holding a dumbbell down by your side in the hand opposite to your front knee. You can also add pulses where you lunge to full depth, then come up halfway, then back down to full lunge position.
A common thing that people get wrong is not having a big enough space between their feet.
How big your stride should be depends on how tall you are and how long your legs are. An easy way to check whether your feet are far enough apart is to check whether you can see your toes when you bend your knee.
When your front knee is at 90 degree angle, the knee should be just above the tip of your toes. If your knee is tracking too far forward over the front foot, your feet are too close together.
Putting too much pressure on the front knee like this can lead to pain, and suggests the back leg is not being fully activated, when the lunge should work both legs equally.
This sometimes reveals itself by leaning too far forward from the hips. Remember to keep your spine long and tall with your chest up and shoulders down.
If you notice yourself leaning forward during the lunge, this probably means that your core isn’t engaged. Lack of core activation means you aren’t getting the most out of the exercise as you want to give your abs a workout too.
A third mistake people make is not keeping the front knee in line with the toes, which can be seen by the front knee rotating inwards.
Performing a lunge incorrectly like this can cause ankle, knee or hip pain, and is usually caused by decreased strength in the glutes or leg muscles.
Want to build some lunges into your workout at home? Why not try this cardio workout which incorporates jumping lunges.