Looking to tone your thighs and develop a shapely butt? Lunges are the exercise of choice.
Lunges and lunge variations like the walking lunge, side lunge and dumbbell lunge are excellent exercises to train your lower body. Think of lunges as one-legged squats, with one “working leg” and one “balance” leg. This combination requires you to stabilize your body as you perform your lunges, from your hips, down to your foot and ankle. Start with:
1. Forward Lunges
This simple bodyweight exercise will teach you the proper mechanics of lunges. Start with your feet together and your hands at your sides, on your hips or across your chest. Plant your right foot and step forward (lunge) with your left. Imagine you are fencing and lunge forward until your left knee is directly above your left ankle. Your rear leg and knee will approach the floor, lower the knee to just above the floor and hold this position briefly. Push back with your forward leg and step back into the start position. Now plant your left foot and step off with your right and repeat, alternating left, right, left.
2. Walking Lunges
Again with only your bodyweight, set up as you did for your forward lunges. Perform a forward lunge, but rather than pushing back to the start position, pull the rear foot and leg forward and lunge forward with that leg. Lunge left, right and left as you move across the room and pause briefly at each “low” point with that rear knee just above the floor.
3. Side Lunges
The basic movement is the same but the forward leg goes to the side, working the forward thigh and stretching the inner thigh of the rear leg. The knee only bends forward so you will lead with the foot and the knee will follow. To avoid injury, don’t attempt side lunges with weights until you master the movement.
4. Dumbbell Lunges
As you progress in your training, you will want to increase the intensity and add resistance (weight) to your lunges. You may be tempted to use a barbell, but a pair of dumbbells, one in each hand, will provide the resistance you need without risking injury to your spine. Another option is holding a medicine ball, a large weight plate or kettlebell against your chest.
Lunges build muscle in your quads (thighs) and glutes (butt), develop strength and stability in and around our knee and ankle joints, and increase the mobility of your hips.