What are the different types of lunges?

January 7, 2012

Q: My gym has very little equipment for properly working the hamstrings and butt, so I have been forced to use only walking lunges holding dumbbells to hit these muscle groups. Lunges have worked great, but I’m getting a little tired of doing the same exercise. Are there any different types of lunges that I can mix into my workout to make things more interesting?

A: Lunges are a great exercise to strengthen and tone the hamstrings and butt. However, people seem to stick with the same old boring walking lunges when there are many other variations to choose from. Here are five of the most overlooked cousins of the traditional lunge that are guaranteed to make your legs feel like Jell-O.

The reverse lunge
The reverse lunge is excellent because it automatically takes the pressure off the quads and isolates the hamstrings and thighs with little to no practice. It’s basically a backward lunge. It takes a little bit more balance than the traditional lunge but you should feel it working almost immediately.

To get started, stand with a dumbbell in each hand and your feet together, then take a long step backward, bending both knees and landing on your toes. When your back knee is about 2 inches off the floor, reverse your motion and return to the starting position. Switch legs and apply the same directions to the opposite side. Continue for a set of 8-10 with each leg. You can increase the reps as you feel more comfortable with the movement.

Diagonal lunges
Diagonal lunges are rarely seen at the average gym but are a very good way to hit the hard-to-reach inner thighs as well as the hamstrings and glutes. To perform a diagonal lunge, stand straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Step diagonally forward with your right leg while leaving your left foot in place; be sure to keep both feet pointing forward. Bend both knees until the top of your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Now return to the starting position and repeat the process with the left leg and you will have completed one full rep.

Incline lunges
Incline lunges are a great way to concentrate on the glutes while also working the hamstrings. This movement is basically a forward lunge onto an incline or box. An incline of 4-8 inches would be a good start. To do incline lunges, follow the same form as the traditional lunge, stepping forward onto the box with your front leg until your knees are approximately 90 degrees giving your butt and hamstrings an excellent stretch. By lunging onto an incline you will target the glutes (butt) much better than a normal walking lunge.

Decline lunges
Decline lunges are the opposite of incline lunges. To give them a try, start by standing on a stable 4-8-inch-high platform or wooden box with your feet spread shoulders’ width apart. Take a large step backward with one leg as if doing a reverse lunge until the knee on the box reaches a 90-degree angle, and then slowly bring your foot back onto the platform by contracting your hamstrings and glutes. If balance is an issue, complete the set alternating each leg, or to make the movement more difficult, do the reps one leg at a time for an intense burn you won’t soon forget.

Stationary lunges
Stationary lunges are perfect for working on balance while targeting a host of lower body muscles. Start by stepping into a lunge with a dumbbell in each hand, then lower your body, bending both knees to approximately 90 degrees, then push back up with both legs but don’t lock out at the top or step back to the starting position. Instead, descend again into another lunge and repeat the process until the desired amount of reps is finished. Switch legs and start the process all over again. I suggest starting with 6-8 reps, as balancing your body will be difficult at first.

All of the above exercises can be done with a dumbbell in each hand or a barbell on your back depending on your preference and fitness level. As you can see, there’s no need to drop lunges altogether; just alternate the above lunge variations into your training routine and add a little excitement to your leg workout.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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