17 Lunge Variations To Build Stronger Legs and Hips

17 Lunge Variations

The Lunge


The lunge is an essential exercise to develop strength and power for the muscles of the lower body. In this post I will cover lunges using different strength training tools. Some lunge variations are for the novice and some will be more challenging and appropriate for those that have more experience.


The lunge targets your quadriceps as well as your glutes, hamstrings and hips. To do them well you need strength, stability, mobility and flexibility. Some lunges even require a bit of coordination.


Why would you want to learn different lunge variations?


1. So you won’t get bored doing the same ones over and over again.

2. You can introduce new stimulus to your legs. How do you progress your current lunge exercise? Do you simply pick up heavier weights? You can. But you can also progress the lunge by increasing its complexity.

3. Different lower body exercises target different areas of your lower body. As you will soon learn in comparing the Curtsy Lunge to the Side Lunge.

4. Maybe you are training somewhere different and you find yourself without your favorite strength training equipment. In this post you will learn how to lunge using dumbbells, kettlebells and a barbell.


Walking Lunges VS Stationary Lunge

As the name implies, a stationary lunge is a lunge where you stay in place. I believe one should focus in learning the stationary lunge before integrating walking lunges into their strength training routines. A walking lunge is basically a lunge with locomotion.

Walking lunges burn more calories than stationary lunges. Keep that in mind if you are aiming to get more of a metabolic workout. The continuous motion of walking and carrying weights at the same time will challenge your cardiovascular fitness.


Things To Consider When Performing Lunges

  • Pause for one second at the bottom position of a lunge to make your exercise more demanding. You can apply this to any variation listed below.
  • If you’re having trouble with forward lunges try reverse lunges. Forward lunges are more difficult as they require a bit of deceleration. Forward lunges also make your VMO (we will take a look at this important muscle shortly) muscle work harder.
  •  Placing the weights in front of your torso will challenge your core more. As opposed to placing the weights behind you or to your sides.
  • To build lower body mass, use barbells. Barbells are the ideal choice if this is your goal because you are able overload your muscles with a lot of weight. It’s easier to carry 200 lbs on your back than it is to carry it using dumbbells or kettlebells.
  • If you have good ankle and hip mobility, you can do a shorter lunge. By shorter I mean you deliberately under extend your leg when you shoot your leg forward or backward. This will work your quadriceps more. If you want to focus more on your gluteus maximus, then go for a longer lunge or overextend the moving leg.

1. Dumbbell Reverse Lunges

Dumbbell Reverse Lunges

Grab a pair of dumbbells and carry them on the sides of your torso. Step back with one leg. You want to make sure you step back enough where you will give the back knee some room to flex. Your knee should come close to the floor. Drive back to the starting position. Complete both sides for one repetition.




2. Dumbbell Lunges (dumbbells at the shoulders)

Dumbbell Lunges (dumbbells at the shoulders)


This lunge is similar to the previous one. However, we will be placing the dumbbells in front of our shoulders. This modification can make your lunges significantly more difficult without the need of grabbing heavier weights. You can rest the dumbbells on your shoulders but if you want to make your abs work harder then slightly push them away from your body. This version will also help keep your posture upright.



3. Dumbbell Curtsy Lunge

Curtsy Lunge

The Curtsy Lunge is particularly unique where it targets the outer hip of the forward leg (the leg that doesn’t come off the ground). As you can see from the animated image above, the forward knee flexes excessively, enough to lean a bit forward, and that is totally fine if you have healthy knees.



4. Dumbbell Side Lunge

Dumbbell Side Lunge 

The Dumbbell Side Lunge targets your adductors (inner thigh muscles) more than any other lunge variation. The adductors are often overlooked in strength training routines and this lack of attention can create muscle imbalances in the lower body.



5. Dumbbell Overhead Lunge

Dumbbell Overhead Lunge

The Dumbbell Overhead Lunge will mainly challenge stability at the core and at the shoulders. Use a load that can you manage to press over your head. Try to keep your working arm close to your head to keep better control of the dumbbell.