Lunges are one of the best exercises for targeting the muscles in the lower body. Most people think the squat is the ultimate lower body exercise, but lunges have some benefits squats don’t have. When you lunge with suitable form, you strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes in a single movement, making lunges a compound movement like squats. In fact, squats and lunges are two of the best exercises for strengthening and hypertrophying the muscles in the lower body.
Squats target these muscles too but place more emphasis on the quads whereas lunges, especially if you lean forward when you do them, shifts more focus to the posterior chain, the hamstrings, and glutes. Plus, lunges work the gluteus medius muscle more than squats. A strong gluteus medius helps stabilize your pelvis when you run and walk. Therefore, lunges are a basic lower body exercise that you might already include in your fitness training routine. If not, it’s time to add them!
Along with squats, lunges are a foundational movement for strengthening the muscles in the lower body. You might already include front and back lunges in your strength-training routine, but there’s another lunge variation you should be doing. It’s the walking lunge. Why should you add this lunge variation to your training? Let’s look at some benefits of this dynamic lunge that strengthens your lower body, burns calories, and helps you stay fit and functional, but first, let’s see how to do one.
How to do a walking lunge:
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Step forward with your right leg and bend your right knee as you lower your left knee toward the floor.
- Pause once your right leg is parallel with the floor and your leg knee almost touches the ground.
- Bearing weight on your right foot, swing your left leg forward to repeat the movement on the other side.
- Keep repeating as you alternate the leg you swing forward as you make your way across the floor.
- Do three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.
Once you’ve mastered the movement using no weights, increase the intensity and build more strength by holding a dumbbell in each hand as you walk and lunge. You can also hold a kettlebell in each hand or a single kettlebell in front of your body. Some people also place a barbell on their shoulders when they lunge, although this is a more advanced move. Wait until you’ve mastered walking lunges without weights and then with dumbbells before trying the barbell version.
Now, let’s look at some benefits of doing walking lunges with weights and without weights.
Walking Lunges is an Integrated Movement
Front and back lunges work several muscles in the lower body, including the quadriceps muscles, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and even the core muscles in your abs and back get a workout. However, the front and back lunge isn’t a dynamic, integrated movement like walking lunges are. By doing walking lunges, you not only enhance leg strength, but you also improve movement efficiency. So, walking lunges are an excellent exercise for improving functionality and for upgrading your athletic performance.
Walking and Lunging Can Upgrade Your Balance Skills
In addition, walking lunges improve coordination because you’re working multiple muscle groups in a coordinated, integrated manner. Plus, walking lunges offer a balance challenge. Unless you do dedicated exercises that work balance, you’ll lose some of your ability to sense where your body is in space and become more prone toward falls. Exercises with a balance component target your muscles, but they also engage your brain and teach your brain and muscles to work better together to keep you upright and balanced when you move.
They Target Your Glutes
Walking lunges are effective for targeting your glutes, but to get the most out of the exercise, alternate the leading leg that you use. It’s the leading leg and buttock that gets the most stimulation when you walk and lunge, so switch the leg that you lead with in a back-and-forth manner to ensure that each glute gets the same stimulation. To maximize glute stimulation, you eventually must add weights, but do the exercise without weights until you master the form.
With walking lunges, you can work toward increases the length of your stride. By doing so, you can improve hip and ankle mobility. Good hip and ankle mobility is important for performing other strength-training exercises such as squats and deadlifts. Start out with a stride you’re comfortable with, but try to increase the stride over time.
Use Walking Lunges as a Plateau Buster
If you usually do forward and reverse lunges, walking lunges work your lower body in a different and more dynamic way. It’s important to introduce additional challenges to avoid training plateaus. So, shake things up a little and try walking lunges!
Walking Lunge Variations
For more of a core and balance challenge, put down the dumbbells and grab a medicine ball. Here’s how to do a twist lunge, a core-intensive version of walking lunges.
- Hold a medicine ball with two hands in front of your mid-section.
- Step forward with your right foot into a lunge.
- Twist your core to the right while holding your core muscles and glutes tight.
- Stretch your arms out to the right as you twist while holding the medicine ball.
- As you bring your arms back to midline, step your right foot back to the starting position.
- Switch feet and repeat.
- Do 10 to 12 reps on each side and aim for 2 sets.
The Bottom Line
Walking lunges add a dynamic twist to standard lunges, and it’s a way to work your lower body and core in a more dynamic way. It’s more metabolically challenging, and you burn more calories when you walk and lunge. However, master front and back static lunges first. You need baseline balance and coordination to do the exercise safely and correctly. Once you have the basic movement down, walking lunges will further develop your sense of balance to reduce the risk of falling, something we all need as we get older.
- J Hum Kinet. 2018 Jun; 62: 15–22.Published online 2018 Jun 13. doi: 10.1515/hukin-2017-0174.
- com. “Lunging Into Stride Length Part II: Research Based Evidence of Benefits of the Lunge for Strength and Sport Adaptations”
- Strength Cond J. 2016 Jun; 38(3): 91–101.