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how to do the perfect lunge shown by certified personal trainer emily ackart

Lunges. You either love ’em or hate ’em. Personally, I LOVE them and as a Certified Personal Trainer, you’ll find them in my workouts. They’re great to do on their own or in combination with other exercises. Lunges work your glutes better than many other popular exercises. Here’s how to do the perfect lunge so you work your butt like never before!

Which muscles do lunges work?

I think lunges are better than a squat or deadlift because they give you more bang for your buck. Your body has to work extra hard to stabilize AND produce force, which requires more muscles to be active.

Plus, there are lots of lunge variations so they never get old! Lunges are a great way to get your body moving in all planes of motion which is crucial for keeping muscles balanced and to help prevent injury.

Try lateral lunges (sideways), reverse lunges (stepping backward), and forward lunges (stepping forward). Add in some arms as you lunge for a great full body workout.

These are the five ways to do a perfect lunge, and great reminders whether you’re a beginner or fitness expert. 

  1. Drive through the heel. Tuck in the tailbone.
  2. Establish mind/body connection: think about the glute working.
  3. Vertical shin – knee and ankle in line.
  4. Chest up high. 
  5. Create 90-degree angles.

You’ll keep these keys in mind no matter what type of lunge you perform. We’ll get to which lunges are best in a minute, but let’s focus on the five things to keep in mind so your lunge is perfect and not causing back pain or knee problems. 

How to do the perfect lunge

When you’re doing lunge exercises, make sure you’re working the right muscles. 

So, which muscles do lunges work? They train your glutes. So, if you’re feeling it in your knees and quads you’re probably leaning over too far when you lunge.

For a perfect lunge, focus on your butt. You’re missing the goal of this movement if your knees and quads get all the attention.

So, how do you focus ONLY on your glutes? It takes concentration.

First, think about driving through the heel, tucking the tailbone under just until you feel your glute turn on.

Second, THINK about the muscles working.  This will help establish the mind/body connection and help ensure you’re working the correct muscles. Again — it’s all about the glute!

Third, think “vertical shin”.  You want your knee and ankle to stay in line so that the glutes remain the primary muscle working vs. your quadriceps.

Fourth, imagine you have a string from your chest pulling your chest up high.  Keeping an upright torso is much easier with a lunge than a squat which means less loading on the lower back and more focus on the lower body. Major win if you deal with low back pain!

Finally, think 90-degree angle with the front leg and 90-degree angle with the back leg from hip to knee to ankle.  You do not want to overextend the back leg where you feel a strong pull in the front of your hip and your back leg is fully straightened. Instead, think about lowering the back knee down toward the ground.

Which lunges are best?

Now that you’re thinking about the lunge movement, creating 90-degree angles, and keeping your chest up high — which lunges are best? 

All lunges are best for glutes, but these are my 5 favorite lunge variations to use in your next workout! Some use the TRX suspension trainer while others use dumbbells or just your bodyweight. So, there’s a perfect lunge in here for everyone.

1. Box step up to curtsy lunge

The box step up to curtsy lunge exercise is awesome to strengthen all areas of your glute, improve your balance AND get an awesome heart rate spike. That’s why they call it the “bootybuilder.”

2. Lunge Thrusters

Lunge thrusters are HARD!! They’re a total body exercise so you will feel your heart rate shoot through the rough.  I recommend keeping the reps low on this one as it is easy to get sloppy with form when you get tired!!

3. TRX Cycle Hops

TRX Cycle Hops are a super fun way to get in some cardio.  You can decrease the intensity by just stepping back into a lunge or ramp it way up by jumping as high as you can control.  

4. Lateral Lunge Hops

This variation I love to add to my warmup.  Lateral lunge hops are a good way to build some heat, increase the heart rate and stretch the often tight adductor muscles (inner thighs)

5. TRX Suspended Lunge + Runners Lunge + Twist

This one is an amazing lunge variation that will help you work on your hip mobility and t-spine mobility (upper back).  This exercise forces you to slow down and focus on quality movement.  

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Perfect lunge progression & modifications

Need modifications for a perfect lunge? This is the progression of the lunge from beginner fitness levels to advanced. You can use your own bodyweight or lunge with the TRX suspension trainer. 

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Which lunge is your favorite?

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