The lunge is one of the best lower body exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. Who doesn’t love compound exercises? They’re time expedient and burn more calories. Plus, when you lunge, you work your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Your hip stabilizers also get in on the action when you do this exercise with good form.
The most common lunges people include in their strength-building routine is a standard lunge and a reverse lunge, although there are a number of lunge variations you can do for variety and to change the focus of the exercise. These include walking lunges, curtsy lunges, lateral lunges, lunges with a torso twist, and more.
What if your primary goal for doing lunges is to build stronger, more defined glutes? The lunge is an excellent exercise for doing that, and with certain modifications, you can shift the focus more toward your glutes. Let’s look at how to properly do a basic lunge and some ways to modify the lunge to work your glutes harder.
How to Do a Standard Lunge
Stand straight with your feet about hip-width apart.
Step your right foot in front of you and lower your body until your right knee is at a 90-degree angle and your left knee is about two inches from the floor.
Drive off your right heel to propel your body back to the starting position.
Repeat until you’ve completed 8 to 12 repetitions
Switch to the other leg and do the same.
Watch your form! When you do standard lunges, avoid letting your front knee go over your toes.
Ways to Make Lunges More Glute Focused
Now that you know how to do a standard lunge, let’s look at ways to modify the move to work your glutes harder. One way to do that is to tilt your torso forward slightly when you lunge. Leaning forward a bit places less stress on your knees too, so it’s a good variation if you have a history of knee pain.
The size of the step you take when you do a standard lunge also affects how much glute activation you get when you lunge. If you take a short step, the emphasis will be on your quadriceps, the muscles in the front of your thigh, but if you take a longer step, the focus shifts more toward your glutes. Make sure the step you take is large enough that your knee doesn’t extend over your toes. It may be difficult to take a big step when you first start out since a longer step makes it harder to push your body back up. Therefore, you may need to start with a smaller step and gradually work up to bigger steps.
Do Reverse Lunges Too
If you do standard lunges, don’t forget to reverse the movement and do reverse lunges. The difference is you step back when you do a reverse lunge. The reverse lunge places more emphasis on the glutes than a standard lunge. Reverse lunges are more beginner-friendly too because it’s easier to stay balanced when you step backward. Both a standard and reverse lunge can be challenging if you haven’t done them before and developed appropriate balance skills. Don’t hesitate to hold on to something for balance when you first start out. Reverse lunges also place less stress on your knees and lower back.
Walking lunges are another effective lunge variation for targeting your glutes. Plus, the walking motion boosts your heart rate more. However, there are drawbacks to this lunge variation. Since you’re lunging as you move across the floor, it’s easy to lose track of your form. When you’re doing a standard or reverse lunge in a stationary position, you can focus on activating your glutes, but it’s harder to do that when you’re walking and lunging.
Slow the Tempo and Add Resistance
You’ll get more glute activation too if you slow the tempo of lunges and avoid using momentum. Use good control and focus on activating the muscles in your glutes and focusing on the burn. Once you’re comfortable with doing bodyweight lunges, do the exercise while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
When you train your glutes, you probably focus more on the largest glute muscles, the gluteus maximus muscles, but don’t neglect the two smaller muscle groups, the gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. One of the best lunge variations for targeting these smaller muscles is the curtsy lunge. For more balanced glute training, that works the smaller muscles, include curtsy lunges in your routine.
Lunges vs. Squats: Lunges Have Certain Advantages
Most people believe squats are the ultimate lower body exercise. They also think they’re superior for targeting the glutes. However, squats are a quadriceps focused exercise with less emphasis on the glutes. A big advantage of lunges over squats is you can use lunges to correct muscle imbalances. Most people have some degree of muscle strength imbalance between sides. For example, the hamstrings and glutes on your right side may be stronger than your left. With lunges, you can focus more on the weak side to help even things up.
Lunges also improve hip mobility and offer a balance challenge too. So, you’re getting multiple fitness benefits when you lunge that go beyond strengthening your glutes and lower body.
The Bottom Line
Now, you know how to make your glutes work harder when you lunge. Although you’ll get benefits doing only standard and reverse lunges, doing a variety of lunge variations will hit your glutes and muscles in your lower body at different angles and that can boost strength gains. Keep squatting but make sure you’re lunging too.
· ACEFitness.org. “5 Lunge Variations You Need to Try”
· Stack.com. “Why Reverse Lunges Are Better Than Forward Lunges”
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· PhysioU. “Lunging Into Stride Length Part II: Research Based Evidence of Benefits of the Lunge for Strength and Sport Adaptations”
· J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Jul;38(7):403-9. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2008.2634. Epub 2008 Apr 15.