Finding lunge variations can be difficult if you’re not a certified strength and conditioning coach. That’s why we made this article, to help you find both varieties of the lunge movement but also novel variations that will allow you to target different responses.
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The lunge position is one of the best exercises for increase strength in the lower body. It should be a staple of any strength and conditioning program be that for health or improving athleticism. The barbell is traditionally more difficult than the kettlebell or dumbbell, so be sure if you’re a beginner to have a look through some of the squatting variations with those pieces of equipment if you have them available to you.
Some of these exercise variation are some of the most effective at increasing the muscle mass in the legs. Particularly the barbell squat in lunge, which is the simplest of them, meaning generating high volume in this exercise compared to say a barbell reverse lunge. That being said, for very advanced individuals there is little difference lunge positions due to high levels of experience.
Increasing single leg strength with the barbell lunge variations is an excellent way to improve overall lower body strength and supplement your bilateral squatting variations like the barbell back squat and the front squat.
The lunge requires a lot of balance and coordination to perform at high levels of proficiency, therefore performing it will improve both your balance and coordination. balance can be an important component of both athletic performance and training towards health.
Torso angle in the lunge position is one of the most important points that goes into creating a strong and stable position, but it is often incorrectly performed. The torso should be slightly leaning forward throughout the entire movement this will prevent the hip flexor from being pulled on or stretched due to an overly upright torso.
Taking a narrow stance in the lunge will make the exercise much more difficult than it needs to be, as it will add a balance component that doesn’t need to be there. Think about it like you’re making yourself “walk on a tight rope” by putting your feet so close together. If you keep your feet roughly hip width apart, finding a strong and stable position will not be extremely difficult.
Maintaining an upright structure (with the correct torso angle) can become extremely difficult, as the lower body get more and more fatigued it will become more difficult to not relax the upper body in an attempt to expend less energy. This should be avoided to maintain high levels of movement quality. If you cannot hold the correct positioning for the exercise for whatever reason, you should end the set and reduce the weights and or the repetitions.
The barbell squat in lunge is the most entry level of these variations. This is because it doesn’t require any balance as you’re able to stay in a fixed position, or the fixed position is just a little less challenging than say the rear foot elevated barbell squat in lunge. These are excellent for beginner and intermediate individuals who have worked up through the goblet squat in lunge, dumbbell squat in lunge and arrived at this variation with a confident lunge position and the ability to load it successfully.
The barbell reverse lunge is an excellent exercise for a more intermediate to advanced level individual. It require a good and consistent lunge position as it will need to be found every repetition. Individuals who are not confident in the lunge position should avoid this exercise as it will be much easier and safer to find your feet with a simpler exercise like the barbell squat in lunge of the more likely the kettlebell goblet squat in lunge. Loading this heavy and really pushing here can be great training for an advanced individual.
The barbell 45 degree lunge puts much more emphasis on movement capacity and quality rather than on strength or muscle gain. It allows the hips to move through a different range of motion and can be great for those who are trying to improve their mobility or just take a break from lifting heavy weight.
The barbell walking lunge is one of the more challenging variation. It should mainly be used by those who are very confident in the lunge position as the forward movement can be a little difficult for people to master if they don’t have experience in the lunge. For some reason, probably due to torso angle, maintaining good positioning on the reverse lunge is much easier than in a forward trajectory. This can be a brutal exercise to put into mixed model cardiovascular circuits, this should only be done by those who have a lot of experience and have high levels of movement capacity.
The front rack reverse lunge is another challenging variation that target the quads more so than the posterior chain, similar to the difference between a back and front squat. This should only be done by those who have good enough mobility to perform it with high levels of movement virtuosity, otherwise it will put too much pressure on the lower back. To build up to be able to do this well, using the double kettlebell front rack reverse lunge can be a great introduction, it will challenge very similar muscle groups but the load can be manipulated to be much lighter than with a barbell.
The rear foot elevated barbell squat in lunge is by far the most challenging exercise in the list. It require a lot of experience in the lunge position and a great base layer of strength. If you’re a coach or coaching yourself, do not use this exercise unless you’re sure it can be performed with technical precession, it can be difficult to get out of this position with a barbell, very different from say that of a dumbbell of a kettlebell. If you are advanced and are looking for a challenging single leg variation to increase lower body strength then make sure you give this exercise a try, be sure to start with weights you can manage.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.