Lunge Variations to Strengthen Your Legs

Lunge Variations to Strengthen Your Legs

The lunge variation is a classic leg exercise that targets the quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, calves, transverse abdominis, obliques, multifidus, and erector spinae. Lunge variations target similar muscle groups as that of the traditional lunge, but the variations allow for greater isolation depending on the muscle you target.

Lunge variations improve strength, agility, and stability. Because the standard lunge is a bodyweight exercise, variations exist with added weight to help improve strength and endurance. The best lunge variations target the same muscles as the classic lunge while stretching other muscles and engaging the entire lower body. 

While some of these lifts are controversial due to the intensity and extreme precision needed to perform them, they remain popular today as the benefits outweigh the risk when proper form is utilized.

Lunge variations work for beginners all the way to expert athletes, Olympians, and Strongmen. Each variation can be modified for ease or more intensity. Here are 18 lunge variations you can try the next time you want to add some depth to your leg routine.

1. Bodyweight Forward Lunge

The bodyweight forward lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing on hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexor muscles, gluteus maximus, and adductor muscles for beginner and experienced men and women in the gym. The bodyweight forward lunge is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone with limited space or looking to add less movement to their lunge routine. 

A common mistake to avoid would be not stepping forward far enough to get the proper bend in your knee. Keep your chin parallel to the floor and your shoulders straight to correctly perform the move. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately easy. To increase the level of difficulty, try adding weight to the forward lunge. The bodyweight reverse lunge is a bodyweight forward lunge variation that can also be used. Both of these lunges are great lunge variations for the glutes.

2. Bodyweight Reverse Lunge

The bodyweight reverse lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing on core, glute muscles, and hamstrings for beginner and experienced men and women in the gym. Taking a controlled step backward engages the leg muscles. Keeping your torso straight and stable works your core muscles. 

The bodyweight reverse lunge is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone with limited space or looking to concentrate on their hamstrings and quadriceps. A common mistake to avoid would be not stepping your back knee far enough to get the proper bend. Drop your knee straight down and keep your back straight to perform the move correctly. 

Reverse Lunges Correct Form

With proper form, this movement is moderately easy. However, adding weight makes it more difficult if you are looking to increase strength. The dumbbell reverse lunge is a bodyweight reverse lunge variation, both of which are variations for glutes.

3. Dumbbell Forward Lunge

The dumbbell forward lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing on hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexor muscles, gluteus maximus, and abdominal muscles for beginner and experienced men and women in the gym. 

Taking a controlled step forward engages the leg muscles. Keeping your torso straight and stable works your core muscles. The dumbbell forward lunge is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone wanting to add more weight to a bodyweight forward lunge. 

A common mistake to avoid would be not stepping forward far enough to get the proper bend in your knee. Keep your arms steady to avoid swinging the weights and your shoulders straight to properly perform the move. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. The crescent lunge variation is a dumbbell forward lunge variation. Both lunges are lunge variations for glutes and quadriceps. 

4. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge

The dumbbell reverse lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing on core, glute muscles, and hamstrings for beginner and experienced men and women in the gym. Like the bodyweight reverse lunge, taking a controlled step backward engages the leg muscles. Keeping your torso straight and stable works your core muscles. 

The dumbbell reverse lunge is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone looking to concentrate on their hamstrings and quadriceps with more weight. A common mistake to avoid would be not bending your back knee far enough to get the proper bend. To properly perform the move, drop your knee straight down and keep your back straight. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. Heavier weight makes it harder to perform. The bodyweight reverse lunge variation is a dumbbell reverse lunge variation. These are lunge variations for bad knees, taking the strain off the knee during the movement.

5. Bodyweight Lateral Lunge

The bodyweight lateral lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quadriceps and glutes for beginner and experienced men and women in the gym. The cross-body movement targets the upper leg muscles making this a useful compound exercise that strengthens the thigh muscles.

The curtsy lunge is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone who wants to focus on sculpting strong mid-section and posterior muscles. A common mistake to avoid would be keeping your feet too close together when you step back. Don’t let your front knee drop over your toe as you settle into the movement. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately easy. If you want to make it more challenging, simply try adding weight. The curtsy lunge is a good lunge variation for seniors who want to stay active and mobile. Lastly, the Yoga runners lunge variation is a great bodyweight lateral lunge variation to try.

6. Curtsy Lunge

The curtsy lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quadriceps and glutes for beginner and experienced men and women in the gym. The cross-body movement targets the upper leg muscles making this a useful compound exercise that strengthens the thigh muscles.

The curtsy lunge is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone who wants to focus on sculpting strong mid-section and posterior muscles. A common mistake to avoid would be keeping your feet too close together when you step back. Don’t let your front knee drop over your toe as you settle into the movement. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately easy to perform. Adding weight makes it more difficult like all lifts. The curtsy lunge is a good lunge variation for seniors who want to stay active and mobile. 

7. Reverse Lunge With Rotation

The reverse lunge with a rotation is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quadriceps, glutes, abdomen, and shoulder muscles for beginner and experienced men and women in the gym. 

The cross-body movement targets the legs and the shoulders, making this a useful compound exercise that strengths the thigh muscles and builds core stability. The reverse lunge with rotation is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone who wants to sculpt a strong mid-section and posterior muscles or incorporate compound movements into an exercise routine.

A common mistake to avoid would be twisting your torso too much, leading to joint pain, pinched nerves, and muscles tears. Keep your abdomen engaged and your shoulders straight to perform this movement. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. Adding weight makes it a more intense exercise. Lastly, the high lunge variation is a good reverse lunge with rotation variation for anyone who wants to focus on more compound movements. 

8. Lunge Jump

The lunge jump is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quads, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, and calves, as well as the cardiovascular system. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The jump added at the end of the movement engages the cardiovascular system to create a plyometric workout. The lunge jump is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone who wants to focus on sculpting strong legs and increasing their cardio fitness. 

A common mistake to avoid would be lunging too far, which may cause muscle tears. Keep your knees stable, and make sure your feet are in line to perform this movement. With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. 

Adding more weight to this exercise makes it more difficult to perform if you are looking for more variation. The kettlebell lunge is a good lunge jump variation if you want less impact and more focused movements without the cardiovascular input.

9. Dumbbell Lateral Lunge

The dumbbell lateral lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The dumbbell lateral lunge engages the leg muscles with added weight concentration. A common mistake to avoid would be lunging too far which may lead to joint pain and muscle tears. Keep a reasonable distance when you lunge to prevent injury. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. The curtsy lunge is a good dumbbell lateral lunge variation if you want less impact.

10. Single-Leg Deadlift to Reverse Lunge

The single-leg deadlift to reverse lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The single-leg deadlift to reverse lunge engages all the leg muscles and abdominal muscles. A common mistake to avoid would be bending your knee too much on the deadlift which may result in knee pain. Keep your knees straight and regain your balance before moving into the lunge. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. A standard deadlift is a good single-leg deadlift to reverse lunge variation to also use in the gym.

11. Curtsy Lunge With Kick

The curtsy lunge with a kick is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The curtsy lunge with a kick engages all the leg muscles and abdominal muscles. A common mistake to avoid would be hyperextending your knee on the kick. Control the kick movement and lower yourself slowly into the lunge movement. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. This is the best lunge variation for adding plyometric movements to the end of a lunge exercise variation. 

12. Alternating Forward to Reverse Lunge

The alternating forward to reverse lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing on all the leg muscles and the core. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The alternating forward to reverse lunge engages all the leg muscles and abdominal muscles. A common mistake to avoid would be moving too fast. Keep your core stable and your movements controlled to complete this exercise.

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. Adding weight will make this movement more difficult to perform. The alternating forward to reverse lunge is one of the best lunge variations for glutes.

13. 5 O’Clock lunge

The 5 o’clock lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing on the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, quadriceps, hamstrings, core, and hip adductors. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The 5 o’clock lunge engages all the leg muscles and abdominal muscles. A common mistake to avoid would be moving too fast which may lead to muscle tears or becoming unbalanced. Keep your core stable and your feet planted firmly for this exercise. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. Adding weight makes the 5 o’clock lunge more difficult to perform. 

14. Reverse Lunge to Overhead Press With Knee Drive

The reverse lunge to overhead press with knee drive is a lunge exercise variation focusing on the leg muscles, core, and shoulders. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

A common mistake to avoid would be stepping back too far which may lead to muscle tears or joint pain. Keep your core stable and your shoulders back for this exercise. 

With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. If you are looking to change it up even further, try the yoga crescent lunge variation is a reverse lunge to overhead press with knee drive variation. 

15. Lateral Lunge Into Runners Jump

The lateral lunge into runners jump is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors, as well as the cardiovascular system. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The runner’s jump added at the end of the movement engages the cardiovascular system to create a plyometric workout. The lateral lunge into runners jump is a good lunge variation exercise for anyone who wants to sculpt strong legs and increase their cardio fitness. 

A common mistake to avoid would be lunging too far. Keep your knees stable, and make sure your feet are in line to perform this movement. With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. Adding weight makes it more difficult, but if you need another variation of the lateral lunge into runners jump, try the lunge jump. 

16. Resistance Band Lateral Lunge

The resistance band lateral lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The resistance band lateral lunge is a good lunge variation exercise to increase their movements’ strength, stability, and mobility. A common mistake to avoid would be using bands that are too heavy. 

Keep your knees stable and your core engaged in getting the most out of this workout. With proper form, this movement is moderately easy. The dumbbell lateral lunge is a resistance band lateral lunge variation to also use if a variation is needed. 

17. Step-up to Reverse Lunge

The step-up to reverse lunge is a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. This movement is for intermediate men and women in the gym. 

The step-up to reverse lunge is a good lunge variation exercise to increase movement, strength, stability, and mobility. A common mistake to avoid would be hurrying into the lunge. 

Control your movement from top to bottom, stepping all the way up before coming into the lunge. With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. Also, the step-up to reverse lunge variation is a dumbbell reverse lunge variation to try. 

18. Explosive Sprinters Lunge

The explosive sprinters lunge a lunge exercise variation focusing primarily on the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and explosive strength. This movement is for experienced men and women in the gym. 

The explosive sprinter’s lunge is a good lunge variation exercise to increase strength, stability, explosive speed, and endurance. A common mistake to avoid for the explosive sprinter’s lunge is having a lunge that is too deep which may cause muscle tears. 

Keep your head up and your back straight for this movement.  With proper form, this movement is moderately difficult. 

What to Know About Lunge Variations?

Here is what you need to know about the lunge and the various variations that exist.

  1. Increased strength: lunge variations work different muscle groups in more concentrated ways
  2. Better mobility: lunge variations can include plyometric moves and exercises for bad knees
  3. The versatility of movement: utilizing the different movements of lunge variations will help engage every muscle group.

Lunge alternatives are helpful exercises to include along with standard lunges. Lunge alternatives increase muscle growth and add variety to a workout.

What Are the Common Mistakes in Doing the Lunge Variations?

Some common mistakes to avoid in doing lunge variations include.

  1. Lunging too deep
  2. Not keeping your feet planted
  3. Bending or arching your back
  4. Losing core stability

Which Type of Lunge Variation Is Beginner-Friendly?

The bodyweight forward lunge is the best exercise for beginners. Keep your chin parallel to the floor and your shoulders straight to properly perform the move. Avoid taking short steps and not bending your knee. In proper form, this move is easy to perform. 

Which Type of Lunge Variation Is Good for Weightlifters?

The dumbbell forward lunge is the best exercise for weightlifters. Keep your chin parallel to the floor and your core engaged to properly perform the move. Avoid slouching your shoulders. 

In proper form, this move is moderately easy to perform. 

Which Type of Lunge Variation Is Good for Athletes?

The explosive sprinters lunge is an athlete-friendly lunge variation for athletes of all ages. Keep your chin up and explode off your feet to properly perform the move. Avoid taking short steps.

In proper form, this move is moderately difficult to perform. 

Which Type of Lunge Variation Is Good for Bodybuilders?

The single-leg deadlift to reverse lung is the best exercise for bodybuilders. A common mistake is not completing the deadlift. Focus on core stability and a full range of motion. 

In proper form, this move is difficult to perform. 

Which Lunge Is Better for Building Leg Muscles?

The bodyweight forward lunge is a good lunge variation for building leg muscles. It focuses on the basics and allows for great concentration.

Which Lunge Variation Works the Quads More?

The bodyweight reverse lunge is one of the best exercises for quads. The backward motion relies on the quadriceps for stability. 

Which Lunge Variations Are Suitable for Home?

All lunge variations are suitable for home workouts. They require little space and no weight, making them easy at-home workout moves. The best lunge variations for home workouts are forward lunges, reverse lunges, and curtsy lunges.

Are Variations of Lunge Good for Knee Pain?

Yes, lunge variations are great exercises to help knee pain.

Reverse lunges take the strain off the knees and allow the lunge movement without the pain. 

What Are the alternatives to Lunge Exercises?

The lunge alternatives include the following exercises.

  1. Squats
  2. Step-ups
  3. Box jumps
  4. Side-to-side squats
  5. Goblet squats
  6. Leg press
  7. Wall squats
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