The benefits of lunges go beyond toning and strengthening your legs. Training legs is something that many people tend to shy away from at the gym, and they shouldn’t because leg exercises offer so many benefits. More specifically, lunges are the most effective lower body exercise because they target large muscle groups in the legs, increase strength and improve your balance and flexibility. Never skip leg day again with this easy, functional, bodyweight exercise!
Because lunges are a bodyweight exercise, that means there is no equipment required for them to be effective. Lunges can also be done anywhere. Whether you’re at work, in the park, or in front of the tv, you can definitely squeeze in a quick set.
Benefits of Lunges:
- Target Multiple Muscle Groups and Increase Strength
- Improve Balance and Coordination
- Improve Flexibility
- Easily Modified
How to do Lunges:
To do a lunge, first make sure to keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed, and your chin up. It helps to pick something such as a point or object to stare at in front of you so you don’t keep looking down. Next, step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle, and do the same with the other leg, switching back and forth (make sure your knee doesn’t lean over your toe).
Pro Tip: You should always be engaging your core, as well as your back and abdominals in order to keep your body upright and balanced as you move your hips up and down. Neglecting to do this exercise correctly can result in poor form and can cause injuries.
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Benefit #1 Target Multiple Muscle Groups and Increase Strength
Lunges greatly increase your strength, especially in your calves, hamstrings and glutes, and (they even work your obliques too, which helps stabilize your core). When increasing your strength through any type of exercise, you’re also contributing positively to your overall health as well as improving your mental focus. For example, lunges can also lead to greater bone strength and more endurance.
Strengthening the large muscle groups in your legs (calves, hamstrings, and glutes) can also speed up your metabolism, which is beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight.
By changing the position of your lunge and doing different variations you can also target different muscle groups (see Benefit #4).
Benefit #2 Improve Balance and Coordination
Lunges are performed one leg at a time, which is known as unilateral training. Unilateral training helps improve both balance and coordination, in addition to increasing strength. Because lunges also require you to work your abs and back muscles, they help to strengthen your core, which also helps improve your posture, balance, and coordination. Having a strong core is essential because it also relieves lower back pain, promotes stability and athletic performance, and eases your daily activities.
Benefit #3 Improve Flexibility
Lunges can improve your flexibility, especially in your hip flexors, which are the muscles you use to bend and flex your legs at your hips. When you do a lunge, you basically force your hip flexors to stretch. This helps your body maintain alignment and reduces your risk of back pain and injury.
If you don’t work your hip flexors often, they can become tight and trigger lower back pain. Even if you can’t do a full lunge, the motion can have major benefits. For example, if you place your back knee on the floor and slightly lean forward from your hips, you can still really get a nice hip stretch, which can ultimately help you in the long run.
Benefit #4 Easily Modified
Lunges can be easily modified for a challenge. I recommend to start out by doing 3 sets of 10 lunges with about 1 minute of rest in between and work your way up to doing something like 5 sets of 20 lunges (while holding heavy dumbbells).
Lateral lunges are great to further work your quads and glutes. To do a lateral lunge, instead of stepping forward, step laterally (to the side) into lunge position, keeping your knee bent above your toes. Make sure your feet are both pointing forward, keep your opposite leg straight and push hips back, and step back to starting position. Do the same with the other leg.
Reverse lunges are great if you have knee problems or are prone to injury because you’re lunging at a different angle. This allows your knee joint to respond better to hip flexion, putting less stress on the joints, while you’re using your front leg to stabilize your body.
To do a reverse lunge, take a step backward with your right leg. When your knee almost touches the floor, push back up and forward to your starting position (try to maintain your hip alignment throughout) and keep your weight in your back leg.
You can also add weight and carry dumbbells during any of these lunges to make them more challenging.
Make sure to add lunges to your next workout! The benefits of lunges are incredible! From increased balance, coordination, and flexibility, to increasing your strength and toning your muscles, there’s no reason you should be skipping leg day!
Added Bonus: Because lunges are also a functional strength exercise, they can also benefit you in the real world when doing everyday tasks. Whether you’re doing some heavy lifting at home, simply walking up the stairs, or even just bending down to grab something, you’ll notice that you will be able to perform these these tasks better and you will no doubt see all the great the benefits of lunges.