The standard version of any exercise is a great place to begin when working out. But if your go-to lunge has started to feel basic — and hey, maybe even a little bit boring? — that’s when you’ll know it’s time to spice things up and try a different type of lunge.
For a quick refresher, you kick off a standard lunge with your feet together before taking a big step forward with one foot, says Gia Calhoun, a Pilates instructor and vice president of Pilates Anytime. Once you step forward, bend both knees so that your back knee almost touches the floor, and hold that pose for a few seconds. To finish, simply step your front leg back and then repeat the move on the other side.
“The benefits to this type of lunge are that you can strengthen your hamstrings and glutes in a standing position,” Calhoun tells Bustle. “It’s a dynamic but effective exercise that you can do without equipment. Also, depending on how big your lunge is, you can get an active stretch on your hip flexor and quads, too.”
While lunges are a great exercise, doing a variation of the standard lunge can effectively target different muscle groups, add an extra challenge to your usual workout routine, and incorporate other benefits, like improved balance when maneuvering into more difficult positions.
If you’d like to give them a try, read on below for all the different types of lunges as well as expert advice on how to do them.
1. Side Lunge
Calhoun says the side lunge is great for activating the muscles in the hips and glutes.
- Start with your feet together.
- Take a step out to the side.
- The leg that is stationary will remain straight.
- The leg that takes the step out will bend.
- To deepen the lunge position, allow your hips to press back, similar to a squat.
- Make sure your bent knee doesn’t extend past your toes.
- Step your leg back in and repeat the motion on the same side, or switch to the other side.
2. Curtsey Lunge
This is a great exercise to stabilize your hips, Calhoun says. It also works your glutes and quads.
- Start by standing with your feet together.
- Step one foot back and cross it behind your standing leg.
- Bend both knees so that your back knee moves toward the floor. This is the curtsey.
- Bring the foot back to the starting position.
- Repeat and curtsey again, or switch to the other side.
3. Twist Lunge
Calhoun likes this lunge variation to activate your oblique muscles. And since you have to stabilize yourself while twisting to the side, it also helps improve your balance.
- Just like a traditional lunge, take a step forward with your right leg, keeping your knee above your toes.
- Reach your arms out in front of you and clasp your hands.
- Add a torso rotation by twisting your body to the right side.
- Bring your arms and torso back to center.
- Repeat or switch to the other side.
4. Jumping Lunge
According to Steve Hruby, a doctor of chiropractic and founder of Kaizen Progressive Wellness, a jumping lunge increases your power, strength, and explosiveness — while also giving you a great cardio workout.
- Start in a standard lunge position with one leg forward.
- Jump up and switch your legs in the air, landing with your other leg forward.
- Keep your core engaged and land as softly as possible.
- As you get stronger, try to increase the height of your jump.
5. Reverse Lunge
Hruby recommends doing a reverse lunge if you want to target the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Step backward with left foot.
- Lower body until your back thigh is parallel to the ground.
- Keep your front knee behind your toes, and your core engaged.
- Press into your left heel to return to starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
6. Step Up Lunge
Here’s a move to hit the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, Hruby says. If you want to do a little extra strength training, hold a dumbbell in each hand.
- Stand behind a secure, raised surface, like a bench at the gym.
- Firmly plant your right foot in the middle of the surface.
- Push your weight into your foot. Use the muscles of that leg to drive your body up.
- For a variation, you could also plant your right foot, bend your left knee at a 90-degree angle, and repeatedly let your left knee sink to the ground.
7. Cross Lunge
Certified personal trainer Heather Carroll, CPT recommends giving a cross lunge a try. She says it’s a functional movement because it can help improve your balance and stability. It also targets the muscles in your glutes, hamstrings, and core.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward into a lunge with your right foot, but cross your right foot slightly to the left.
- Press down through your right foot to push off your heel and press back to center.
- Alternate sides, stepping your left leg across in front of you.
8. Lunge Pulse
Fitness trainer Erin Oprea says lunge pulses work the booty and quads.
- Stand on your right leg.
- Step back with your left leg into a standard lunge.
- From this position, pulse slightly up and down. For an extra challenge, hold a dumbbell in your left hand and lean your chest toward your quad muscle.
- Come up half way, lifting your left foot off the ground slightly while you continue to pulse on your right leg.
- Stay low.
- Switch legs and arms and repeat on the other side.
9. Walking Lunge
Carroll says walking lunges work the hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and quads, as well as the core, which has to engage to keep you stable.
- Start with your feet together. Make sure your ears are over your shoulders, ribs over hips.
- Step forward with right foot. Bend both knees, aiming your back knee towards floor.
- Make sure both legs are parallel and the front knee doesn’t extend past your toes.
- Press your weight into your front leg. Press through your heel to stand back up.
- Swing your back leg to step forward.
- Continue this motion to walk forward.
- If you don’t have space, remain in place by stepping back instead of forward.
10. Rear Foot Elevated Lunge
For a real challenge, give an elevated lunge or extended lunge a try. According to Carroll, this lunge works the stabilizing muscles in the hips and core, and also provides a nice stretch for your hip flexors.
- Stand tall in front of an elevated surface, like a bench, couch, or exercise ball.
- Raise your leg back behind you, and rest the top of your foot on the elevated surface.
- The front knee should remain in line with your second toe.
- Bend both knees to sink your hips down between both legs, keeping your shoulders up.
- Press down through your front leg and foot to raise back up.
Zouita, S., Zouhal, H., Ferchichi, H., Paillard, T., Dziri, C., Hackney, A. C., Laher, I., Granacher, U., & Ben Moussa Zouita, A. (2020). Effects of Combined Balance and Strength Training on Measures of Balance and Muscle Strength in Older Women With a History of Falls. Frontiers in physiology, 11, 619016. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2020.619016.
Dr. Steve Hruby, doctor of chiropractic and founder of Kaizen Progressive Wellness
Heather Carroll, CPT, certified personal trainer
Erin Oprea, celebrity fitness trainer