10 Lunge Variations To Strengthen Your Legs (types of lunges for everyone)
Switch up your training and push past plateaus with these lunge variations! There are different types of lunges for everyone and these lunge variations vary from targeting your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. However, all of the lunges will help strengthen your legs.
In addition to squats and deadlifts, lunges are one of the main exercises to strengthen your legs. In fact, lunges help improve:
In addition to that, lunges are a great leg exercise to tone and sculpt your legs.
While implementing different squat variations can help bring your workouts to a new level, lunges train the body unilaterally. Thus, they provide a whole new element of results (learn more about unilateral training and why you need it).
Benefits Of Implementing Lunge Variations
Lunges themselves are simply effective in strengthening the legs.
However, most people believe them to be a quadricep-only movement. This is far from true.
Lunges also require a lot of stability from the glutes and place a great stretch on the hip flexors. Plus, depending on the lunge variation you choose and the placement of your torso, they can place more emphasis on hamstrings and glutes (back of the legs).
What Are The Best Types Of Lunges?
Like any other exercise or workout, the best type of lunge is the one you'll do! In order to see results you need to be consistent and master the movement.
Meaning, there are a lot of lunge variations to choose from. Find one that you're able to do comfortably (through a pain-free motion), that you have the equipment for and that fits in with your goals.
Every body is different. Thus, the best lunge for YOU may be different than the best variation for someone else.
What Types Of Lunges Are There?
All sorts! There is literally a lunge that can suit everyone and their ability. Some things to think of when choosing lunges (see the list of awesome lunge variations below) are:
- which equipment do you have access to?
- is there any pain when performing the movement?
- are you strong enough for the exercise?
- can you perform bodyweight lunges with good form?
Regardless of your goals, be it weight loss, strength, performance or maintenance, lunges can easily have a place in your training program.
That said, like most exercises; before you move onto any lunge variation you need to have mastered the basic form learn more about how to lunge().
This means a basic stationary lunge and a reverse lunge. Not only do you need to be able to perform these exercises confidently, but you need to be able to stabilize the front knee and truly activate the muscles of the lower body (specifically the glutes) before progressing.
Likewise, you should be able to perform ten bodyweight lunges on each leg before moving up t more challenging variations.
Lunge Variations #1 Lunges With A Parlof Press
This variation is a fun one but a deceptively hard one. It not only requires far more core strength to press the dumbbell away from your body, but you’ve also got to hold a static lunge to do so.
Instead of targeting your strength through movement, this lunge boosts your stability by having you hold the contraction during the hardest part of the lunge (the bottom).
You’ll shake, vibrate, and be fatigued after few reps. It can be done with a dumbbell as seen in the picture above or with a barbell.
Training with pauses is a widely underused technique but a great one to improve form and boost strength. I love paused reps and you can read more about them here.
How To: hold the dumbbell at chest height, step back and lower into your lunge. Hold the lunge while pressing the weight out in front of you. Return the weight to chest height and step back to standing.
#2 Barbell Reverse Lunges
Training with a barbell on your back is fun- but hard. Because the barbell extends so far from your body this lunge variation requires a lot of balance.
Since you’ll be stepping back with each lunge, work with a light load (just the bar) until you get used to the movement and firing your core muscles to stay upright with the bar.
The mechanical loading of the barbell is a great way to target the lower body but also prevent osteoporosis in the spine- double win.
#3 Overhead Lunge Variations
This variation obviously strengthens your legs but also the rest of your body,. Specifically your core and shoulders! Placing the load in a different area requires a new type of stabilization.
And with this lunge variation, you’re unable to hinge forward (because the weight is overhead) so you develop much more core strength. Not to mention the contraction if continuously holding a weight overhead!
#4 Deficit Lunge
Oh, the burn you’ll feel with these beauties! Deficit lunges give you a larger range of motion and thus they’re much more challenging.
My tip with these lunges is to decrease the length in which you step back in order to increase the depth in which you move down (see them in action here).
Using the strength of your front leg to pull your body up (versus pushing off the back foot) at a greater range than normal with be hard as hell... but worth it.
Deficit lunges target the back of the legs, superficially the glutes quite a lot. They also require a stretch. So, if you're new to them know you might be a bit sore the next day.
They can be done loaded or with just your bodyweight- making them a great at-home option.
#5 Sliding Lunges
These lunges can be done with a regular stance or a curtsy one and I use them most for clients who are working out a home and don’t have a lot of options for equipment..
For this type of exercise, all you need is socks on a hard floor or a small towel. Likewise, paper plates work on carpet too!
Sliding your leg backward and having to pull it forward gives a bit of resistance in your lunge and the pull hits your hamstrings nicely.
#6 Front Loaded Barbell Lunges
This variation is for fitness junkies. For those of us who have mastered all other lunge variations and feel comfortable with a barbell.
Having a strong barbel reverse lunge is key.
Holding the barbell in front of the body and moving not only requires a lot more stability and glute strength but also mobility in the thoracic spine (you must keep the elbows up to keep the barbell in place) and more stress on the anterior core.
Out of the bunch, this is one of the hardest variations but it’s worth trying when you’re at that point. They feel awkward and wobbly the first time you do them- but with practice, focus, and proper muscle contraction they progress you nicely through plateaus.
#7 Lunge With Hop
This variation is an unloaded one (no weight) as it requires a plyometric component (the hop). It can be done strictly with a step-back reverse lunge or a sliding lunge (video demo).
Adding the hop to the front leg and driving the knee through is a nice way to train power and fluidity.
It requires focus and balance. It’s also not a great option to start out with or as a new mom even though it’s a bodyweight exercise (read more about why you should avoid jumping as a new mom).
The truth is, you need to already be strong in order to jump. Otherwise you’ll just hurt your joints, you won’t be able to stabilize, and you’ll kill your knees.
Use this variation if you need to get your heart rate up, train more for performance or power and you’re already comfortable with heavy loaded lunges.
If you’re looking to get strong, reduce back pain and carry kids easier check out my Stronger Glutes For Busy Moms E-book. This 25-page E-book provides you with everything you need to strengthen your glutes at home. You’ll learn about the fundamentals of glute training , and have access to my progressive glute training program. This e-book will take you through: The difference between these glute workouts and sporadic, glute exercises you stumble upon is that these training programs are progressive. Meaning, they build on one another! You’ll learn: Take the guesswork out of your glute training and follow a plan. Learn the best practices to implement when it comes to strengthening glutes and reap the benefits of less back pain and the ability to carry kids easier. Because being strong isn’t optional when you’re a mom. Grab the Stronger Glutes E-book today. (when you click on the button a new window will open that will take you to securely process payment)
Strengthen & Tone Your Glutes… At Home!
If you’re looking to get strong, reduce back pain and carry kids easier check out my Stronger Glutes For Busy Moms E-book. This 25-page E-book provides you with everything you need to strengthen your glutes at home.
You’ll learn about the fundamentals of glute training , and have access to my progressive glute training program.
This e-book will take you through:
The difference between these glute workouts and sporadic, glute exercises you stumble upon is that these training programs are progressive. Meaning, they build on one another!
Take the guesswork out of your glute training and follow a plan. Learn the best practices to implement when it comes to strengthening glutes and reap the benefits of less back pain and the ability to carry kids easier.
Because being strong isn’t optional when you’re a mom. Grab the Stronger Glutes E-book today. (when you click on the button a new window will open that will take you to securely process payment)
Lunge Variations #8 Curtsy Lunges
Curtsy lunges target the glutes more than anything else, but they also require you to pay a lot of attention to your front knee and stabilizing it.
This lunge variation can be done using just your bodyweight, in a deficit (with a riser), or using dumbbells or barbells.
Loading up with a barbell is an awesome way to really hit the glutes and challenge stability given you need to step back slightly sideways to hit them properly (check them out)
#9 Uneven Lunges
This type of lunge variation can be done a few different ways. Regardless of the placement, you chose it’s a great option to train through instability.
When training with only one weight you challenge your body to hold you upright and not give in to one side (anti-lateral flexion).
You can hold the weight down like you would dumbbells, rack a kettlebell on your arm, and hold at shoulder height or for the toughest lunge variation you can opt for one weight overhead.
Yes, your legs are worked in this variation but so are your core muscles- intensely.
#10 TRX Lunges
If you have a pair of TRX straps at home (which is one of my favorite pieces of at-home workout equipment) then this lunge is great!
TRX lunges require a ton of stability and with the rear foot elevated lots of control. Likewise, they force you to use all your stabilizer muscles (especially those glutes) to keep you upright.
Don’t forget to pin these awesome lunge variations to strengthen legs!
The above ten lunge variations are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this leg exercises. Some awesome lunge variations not covered in the breakdown are:
- side lunges
- band resisted side lunges
- walking lunges
And the best part is that many of the variations can be combined (overhead walking lunges for example) to create even more options.
If your training is feeling a bit stagnant or your legs have hit a plateau, switching up your lunges can provide great results.
Ensure your basic stance is solid, strong and you’re able to engage all necessary muscles and then start playing with new options!
This helps boost results, performance, and strength. Plus, it keeps you from getting bored in your workouts!