The Lunge | Common Errors and Variants

When it comes to training legs, it is sometimes easy to overlook the importance of unilateral exercises in favor of squat or deadlift variants. But unilateral work can help resolve imbalances in size or strength between the two sides of the body, which in turn can improve strength in compound lifts – since unilateral exercises tend to expose weaknesses in synergistic muscles (smaller muscles , which help to stabilize the joint).

After you have become familiar with the movements we describe below, experiment with different amplitudes in the number of repetitions and loads – you will obtain a very effective way to develop strength in the lower body, or simply to make your muscles burn. calories at full speed!

How to perform the lunge with body weight

The lunge and its variants mainly work on knee extensors (quadriceps) and hip extensors (glutes), as well as, to a lesser extent, hamstrings and twins, although not should be used as a direct exercise for these muscle groups.

Start in a neutral standing position and step forward with one of your legs, so that your legs form a triangle with the floor, with each leg about 45 degrees from the floor.

Lower the body, allowing the knee of the front leg to align with the toes (it doesn’t matter much whether the knees run the fingers or not – this will depend on the mobility of each person’s ankles).

As you lower your body, the knee of your rear leg should not touch the floor. Let the knee of the rear leg bend. You should feel the quadriceps of the rear leg “stretching”. Both knees should be bent at a 90º angle in the lowest position of the movement.

Push yourself up from the heel of the front foot, taking a step back to return to the starting position. You should feel the effort in the glutes and quads.

Common mistakes and how to resolve them

1. Leaning forward

This question is less relevant in the lunge with the weight of the body, but in any case we must make sure that all repetitions are perfect, regardless of the weight load or how fatigued we are. The torso should be kept in an upright position, especially when weights are used, such as dumbbells or the barbell. Keeping your torso straight will ensure that you are using core muscles (specifically, spine erectors and lower back muscles) to stabilize your spine throughout movement – which will protect you from damage degenerative or spinal injuries.

As with squats, there is a common misconception that allowing the knees to pass the toe line results in injury – which is not true, neither for the lunge nor for the squat. It’s just a matter of individual flexibility and range of motion – allowing your knees to run your fingers probably means you can do a deeper lunge and therefore use your muscles in a broader movement, which is an important factor when you want to develop size and strength over the entire length of the movement.

2. Losing balance

If you find yourself staggering a little, try a wider posture (that is, when you step forward in the starting position, put your foot slightly to the side too, to widen the support base). If you still have difficulty maintaining balance, use a focal point (keep your eyes fixed on a motionless object in your field of view).

If none of these things works, there is no problem using your hands to help balance, or holding onto something stable (but make sure you don’t use your arms to help you lift your body up! ).

3. Drop yourself

The descent must be controlled, minimizing the risk of injury and, in the process, maximizing muscle strength and gains in terms of size. As the muscles stretch during the descent, this is considered an “eccentric” contraction (but only when you are actively using the muscles to control movement), which is the point at which most muscle damage occurs in weight exercises – the which is exactly what we want, so that the muscles are stronger during the recovery phase.

4. Do not contract your muscles

Forgetting to “tighten” the muscles at the end of the movement means that we do not fully develop the neuromuscular connection (mind-muscle), which has been identified as a key factor in the development of strength and size. This is where the concept of “beginner gains” comes from, because the initial training stimulus results in neuromuscular adaptations that occur before there are increases in muscle size (the reason why your numbers in the gym may initially skyrocket before reaching a more stable level).

Overcoming this lack is as simple as staying focused throughout the exercise and “tightening” the muscles at the end of the movement (and don’t worry if you can’t feel it immediately, it’s a learned skill that takes time to be developed).

5. Knees that collapse to the middle

A condition also known as genu valgum or “valgus knee”, this happens when the knee of the front leg yields inwards, towards the middle. This can result from muscles in the hips that are weak and have difficulty stabilizing the joints below them, or simply by fatigue of those muscles at the end of the workout. If not corrected, this can lead to knee injuries, so it is important to pay attention and deal with the problem, either by reducing the weight load when you feel fatigued muscles, or by performing hip abduction exercises (which specifically strengthen the gluteus medius, which is responsible for stabilizing the knee).

If you have access to a long resistance band, do not hesitate to try a challenge (developing strength in the process, so that your knees do not sag). Secure the resistance band to a stable and immovable object, and tie the other end around the front knee. The band should be placed in order to pull your knee inwards (precisely the movement you want to avoid), so that you have to resist firmly while performing the lunges – increasing your strength and stability.


As with any other exercise, there are plenty of variants that can be challenging in different ways, including progressions to make a given exercise more difficult and regressions to adapt it to people who are having difficulties. If you experience difficulties with any of these variations, try another one – which also helps to keep your workouts interesting and to vary the stimuli slightly.

Lunge with kettlebell ( kettlebell lunge )

This exercise can be performed either by holding a kettlebell in each hand, or similarly to a dumbbell squat ( goblet squat ). For the latter, invert the kettlebell so that the handle is upside down (this makes it easier to hold!) And perform the exercise as described above for the lunge with body weight.

Remember to keep your torso straight throughout the movement!

Lunge with bar ( barbell lunge )

This variant is slightly more advanced, as it requires more balance than the others, making it more difficult to interrupt the movement. Make sure you can correctly execute the other variants with a slightly wider stance before progressing to this one.

The positioning of the barbell should be similar to what you would use for the squat. However, if you do squats with the bar a little lower (like a powerlifter ), try to place it a few centimeters higher, to help the torso stay straight (this is unlikely to limit the depth, as would happen in the squat – the depth in the lunge is dictated by individual mobility and muscle rigidity).

You can even experiment with the bar resting at the front, as if you were going to do a front squat, although this is a matter of personal preference. After deciding the position of the bar you prefer, continue as in the lunge with body weight.

dumbbell lunge ( dumbbell lunge )

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, or use a dumbbell in the dumbbell squat position ( goblet squat ), where it is held by both hands and held close to your chest. From here, follow the instructions for the lunge with body weight – but make sure you avoid the mistakes described above – and pay extra attention to keeping your torso straight, to avoid injury.

One-sided squat ( split squat )

In this variant, you will start in the position with the leg forward, as you would place yourself in the lunge (with one foot in front of the other and a posture wide enough to maintain balance). Go down to the bottom of the movement and go back without moving your front foot at first – this counts as a repetition. Repeat with the other leg. You can use weights, in the form of a dumbbell, kettlebell or barbell – for this exercise, you can even use the gym’s “Smith” machine, since the only movement will be vertical.

Lunge with boxes ( box deficit lunge )

This variant can be performed as a lunge or as a one-sided squat, but each foot must be raised (for example using a plyometric box or step platform), with a gap between the platforms that support each foot. This variant should only be tried if you have good mobility, as it requires you to descend with your rear knee lower (“pass the floor”). Once again, choose the desired weight, using body weight, dumbbells, kettlebell or barbell, and pay attention to the errors listed above (and remember to keep your torso straight and your spine straight). neutral position!).

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