Try These 7 Barbell Lunge Variations for Strength and Hypertrophy

Barbell lunge variations are the best way to apply load to the lunge position and build unilateral strength. There are numerous effective variations that can be used and all have their pluses and minuses which I will discuss in detail for all seven of the exercises provided below.

7 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
28/02/24
Last updated
28/02/24

Get weekly roundups of the best training tools in your inbox, every Monday.

No spam – just thoughtful training advice

In This Resource
  • Benefits of Barbell Lunge Variations
  • Loading Incrementally
  • Building Strength and Hypertrophy
  • Deloads
  • Negatives of Barbell Lunge Variations
  • Skill Acquisition
  • Too Heavy for Beginners
  • Try These 7 Barbell Lunge Variations for Strength and Hypertrophy

Benefits of Barbell Lunge Variations

Loading Incrementally

One of the most beneficial things about using a barbell for strength and hypertrophy training is how effective it is for loading incrementally. With kettlebells and dumbbells it is impossible to add less than a kilo, and that is if you have a huge variety of weights. If you only have a few different options with kettlebells and dumbbells using good loading strategies is impossible, whereas with a barbell it is extremely easy.

Building Strength and Hypertrophy

Both kettlebells and dumbbells requires you to hold the weight either in-front of you in the goblet position or by your side. Either way, these positions can generate a lot of fatigue and are often what makes adding load too difficult, rather than leg strength itself. Barbells however are the most effective tool for building strength and hypertrophy in the lunge position as they can be loaded with very heavy weights in a way that can be increased sustainable over time.

Deloads

For more advanced individuals who have spent a lot of time performing squats and deadlifts, using lunges is their deload weeks can be a great way to drop intensity. This takes the pressure off the weight being used and also reduces the intensity in such a way that it gives the body a chance to recover. Some coaches only use lunges to load the squatting movement pattern, personally I think this is going too far and I think that if load is manipulated correctly back squats and front squats do not need to be over bearing exercises.

Negatives of Barbell Lunge Variations

Skill Acquisition

Barbell lunges are some of the most complex lunge variations as they require good body awareness and the body to stay in a fixed position. This makes them a poor exercise to use for skill acquisition, this doesn’t make them any worse as an exercise, it is just something that you will need to be aware of when making exercise decisions.

Too Heavy for Beginners

The majority of beginners will really struggle to perform a lunge with either a 15kg or 20kg barbell. This is the case with 90% of my clients that I coach. It can often take anything between 2-12 months before we touch a barbell. So if you are a beginner, make sure that you can lunge with a kettlebell of the same weight as the barbell that you are hoping to use.

Try These 7 Barbell Lunge Variations for Strength and Hypertrophy

The barbell squat in lunge is by far my favourite lunge variations with the barbell. It allows you to stay in a fixed position while performing the lunge, unlike say the barbell reverse lunge. This means that the balance component is taken away as there is less movement. Through taking the balance component away we can easily focus on building strength and or muscle mass using the lunge. If your primary goal is strength or muscle gain, I recommend this exercise.

The rear foot elevated squat in lunge is just as effective as the barbell squat in lunge, in fact it is more effective as it requires high levels of balance and moves through a longer range of motion and is therefore more difficult. However this exercise is only for advanced individuals as beginners and intermediates will find this far to challenging to perform with precision. Make sure you are only using this exercise if you have mastered other lunge variations that are simpler.

The B-Stance squat technically is not a lunge exercises as the knee doesn’t touch the ground, but I wanted to add it to this list as it is one of my favourite single leg (uni-lateral) squatting exercises in our movement library that would make a great addition to your training plan if you are a relatively advanced individual. This is a very technical exercise as it requires a great deal of intention to put as much of your weight possible on your working leg and not on the supporting leg. This much easier said than done especially when the weight starts to get heavy. The barbell version of the b-stance squat really is one of the best ways to add a great deal of load to a single leg variation.

The barbell reverse lunge, although less effective than the barbell squat in lunge at building strength and muscle mass, still has a great deal of merit, especially if you are looking to improve balance and strength in conjunction with each other. This is a perfect exercise to use with athletes or in deload cycles where you are looking to reduce load.

The Barbell walking lunge in very similar to the squat in lunge and reverse lunge but done through taking a forward step rather than a backward step. This exercise can be done in a strength cycle but also used in mixed model cardiovascular circuits that advanced individuals can perform.

This is a rather niche lunge variation that can be used to mix up training a little bit for those who enjoy adding new exercises into their training cycles. It will challenge the muscles of the core much more so as the barbell is in the front rack position, making it more difficult than the other barbell lunge variations. This could also be performed as a front rack walking lunge.

The barbell 45 degree lunge exercise is very different from the rest in this list and should only be used with light weights in order to improve mobility rather than to induce strength or hypertrophy. It is an excellent exercise for those looking to move the hips through a challenging range of motion whilst under a light load.

If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.

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.

Sean Klein

Signature

Programme is a workout app that plans every workout for you

Programme learns from your past workouts, training experience and available equipment to create your optimal workout plan that adapts to your progress.