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What Are the Positive Effects of Lunges?
The lunge is a complex exercise, meaning it requires movement at more than one joint. Muscles that provide movement at your hip, knee and ankle joints must work together. To complete the lunge, step forward with one foot. Once the foot is planted, drop the back knee directly down toward the floor, keeping your torso upright. Return to starting position, and complete a lunge with the opposite leg.
Increased Muscular Strength
Lunges are effective at significantly developing strength and size in the major lower body muscle groups. The primary muscles developed during the lunge include the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, transverse abdominus, quadriceps, hamstrings and obliques. Your two calf muscles, which are your soleus and gastrocnemius, assist in the movement by providing stabilization and movement around the ankle joint.
Improved Balance and Coordination
Developing your leg strength with lunges is better than using machines. Strength training on machines is different because the movement pathway is laid out for you. During lunges, your muscles must work together to complete the movement pathway. Therefore, completing the lunge movement requires adequate balance and coordination. Your surrounding stabilizing muscles must contract in order to keep you upright and on your feet. You must maintain proper alignment of the ankle, hip and knee joints to maintain stability.
Unlike squats, which require similar movements by muscles in both legs simultaneously, lunges require each leg to work independently. When you’re performing squats, it’s likely your dominant leg will produce most of the force needed to complete the movement. Lunges are therefore a more functional exercise, meaning they transfer better to real life movements. Training with lunges more closely mimics movements that are required during athletics, such as when a baseball player steps forward to throw a ball. Walking lunges are beneficial for endurance athletes like long distance runners, because the single exercise is effective at increasing joint mobility, leg strength, flexibility and core strength.
The lunge can be completed in a variety of ways and adding variety to your training routine can more thoroughly develop your lower body strength and balance. You can complete the traditional forward lunge, which requires you to stay in one spot and step forward with one leg to complete the lunge, then return to starting position, and repeat on the opposite leg. Backward lunges are done in a similar manner, but you step backward with one leg at a time to complete the lunge. Side lunges work the hip adductors and start with your feet spread wide apart. One knee bends as the other leg straightens. Walking lunges require you to continuously move forward, completing the forward lunge with one leg, then immediately stepping forward and completing it with the opposite leg. Advanced athletes can further increase their core strength by incorporating a twist into the exercise, which would require using a medicine ball or dumbbell and twisting while down at the bottom of a lunge. You can also incorporate a biceps curl or shoulder press with dumbbells.
- ACE Fitness: Exercise Library: Forward Lunge
- National Strength and Conditioning Association Performance Journal: The Benefits of Walking Lunges for Endurance Athletes
- ExRx.net: Side Lunge
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Lunge
- Jönhagen S, Ackermann P, Saartok T. Forward lunge: a training study of eccentric exercises of the lower limbs. J Strength Cond Res. 2009;23(3):972-8. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a00d98
- Marchetti PH, Guiselini MA, Da silva JJ, Tucker R, Behm DG, Brown LE. Balance and Lower Limb Muscle Activation between In-Line and Traditional Lunge Exercises. J Hum Kinet. 2018;62:15-22. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-0174
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.