A lot of people don't know how to do lunges properly. Using improper form not only has less benefit for the quads and buttocks but it can result in serious injury, especially to the knees and back. That makes it paramount to practice doing them the right way every time.
How to Do Lunges the Right Way
First off, stand tall with your feet facing forward and together and your weight in the middle of your feet. Put your arms straight at your sides and then bend your elbows and put your hands on your hips. Make sure your head is centered and you're not putting any strain on your neck. Focus on a point in directly in front of you if that helps. This is your starting position. Now you are ready to lunge.
- Choose one leg and step forward about one to two feet. (The taller you are, the further forward you should go, but don't go so far that you feel you are going to fall over.)
- Begin bending your front knee until it is over the top of the foot. Never extend it beyond the toes.
- As you bend this knee, lift the heel of the opposite leg. The knee will be forced to bend as you lunge down.
- Stop when both knees are at a 90 degree angle with the floor.
- Shift all of your weight to the balls of your feet, concentrating on your toes. (If you need to step forward more to make this happen without leaning that's fine.)
- Finally, pull your body back up to the starting position.
You can either leave your foot extended forward and repeat the exercise again or switch to the other leg. Repeating it several times on the same leg is the usual practice. Just make sure to use your muscles, not momentum.
Remember to breathe when you lunge. Holding your breath during the exercise will only make it harder and reduce the effectiveness. Inhale as you lunge down and exhale when you come back up.
When you first begin doing lunges, it's easy to make mistakes. These are ones that often occur:
- Leaning forward or to one side instead of keeping the upper body straight
- Using momentum to lift your body, thus not completing the entire lunge
- Putting too much stress on the knee by letting it overlap past the toes
- Looking down, causing a cramp in the neck
- Letting the knees touch the ground instead of just coming close to it
Ask a friend or trainer who knows how to do lunges to watch you complete your first lunge exercise to make sure you're not inadvertently making any of these errors. If you have trouble with leaning to the side, it's okay to lightly hold on to a chair or railing.
Adding More Challenge
Once you've mastered how to do lunges, you can modify them to make them more challenging. Here are some things you can do:
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand for the duration of the exercise.
- Lift the back leg and lunge solely with the front leg.
- Step forward with every lunge, traveling about three feet each time.
If you have back or neck problems, ask your doctor before incorporating lunges into your exercise routine. Even if you do your lunges correctly, it's possible to aggravate an existing injury.
Always stretch after completing a set of lunges to avoid excessive muscle soreness. Some stretches you will find particularly helpful are the hamstring stretch and the calf stretch. You don't need to spend an inordinate amount of time stretching, but never skip it altogether.