How to do lunges

How to do lunges without hurting your knees: 3 EASY tips for safely performing lunges with proper form

How to do lunges without hurting your knees: 3 EASY tips for safely performing lunges with proper form

Have you ever had trouble doing lower body exercises such as lunges because of discomfort in your knees? If you aren’t dealing with a pre-existing injury, chances are the discomfort is from improper form and technique. 

When done well, lunges are an effective exercise for toning your legs, booty and core. The key to getting the most from the exercise is performing it properly. Below are my tips for performing lunges without discomfort. 

*Disclaimer: please consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. This advice is intended for adults with healthy knees who need tips on proper form. If you are currently dealing with an injury, please only perform exercises that have been approved by your doctor.

1. Widen your stance. First and foremost, begin with feet hip distance apart. If your feet are too close together, it is easy to lose your balance and cause poor alignment. Tip: while performing the lunge pretend your feet are on two opposite railroad tracks. This widens your base, giving you greater stability and helps you maintain your balance.

2. Keep your knee over your ankle. Ideally in a traditional lunge, your front leg should be at a 90 degree angle with your knee directly above your ankle. If you look down and can’t see your big toe, your knee is extended too far. Stand up straight and sit the hips back slightly until you can see the tip of your shoe. 

3. Plant your heel. The key to an effective lunge is keeping the heel of your front foot firmly planted on the ground. All of your weight should be planted in that heel to work your glutes as you come back up from the lunge. If you lift that front heel, excess pressure will be placed on your knee, potentially leading to injury and causing you to miss out on the booty-building benefits of lunges. Tip: I like to raise my toes slightly while raising from a lunge, to ensure I’m keeping my heel down.

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How to do lunges without hurting your knees: 3 EASY tips for safely performing lunges with proper form

Try this: a reverse lunge. If you’re just starting to get comfortable with the lunge movement pattern, reverse lunges can be easier on the joints than a traditional forward lunge. Begin in a standing position with feet shoulder distance apart. Take one step back, slowly bending both legs into a lunging position. Press through that front heel to return to standing, and repeat on opposite leg. 

Talk to me:

  • Do you include lunges in your fitness routine?
  • What are some of your favorite lower body exercises?

How to Perform a Forward Lunge With Perfect Form

  • Stand tall holding a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides (palms in) with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Keeping your chest up, shoulders back, core braced (imagine someone is about to hit you in the gut), and back flat, take a large step forward with your right foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your rear knee is bent 90 degrees (it should hover a couple of inches above the floor).
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot. Continue alternating legs with each rep.

How to Perform a Forward Lunge With Perfect Form

  • Stand tall holding a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides (palms in) with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Keeping your chest up, shoulders back, core braced (imagine someone is about to hit you in the gut), and back flat, take a large step forward with your right foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your rear knee is bent 90 degrees (it should hover a couple of inches above the floor).
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot. Continue alternating legs with each rep.
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10 Ways to Do Lunges

1. Regular Lungelunge

The basic lunge is an oldie, but a goodie. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and then step forward with one foot into a deep lunge. Your back leg should bend and your knee should touch the ground before you step back up with your front leg.

Keep your core tight and lift with your hips and glutes as opposed to your chest to maximize effectiveness.

2. Walking Lungewalking lunge

The walking lunge is a simpler version of the classic lunge. Using the same starting position, you lunge forward, touch your knee to the ground and then move forward to return to the starting position instead of backward.

You can use your bodyweight momentum to easily do walking lunges in larger increments. You can keep your hands by your side or on your hips for more balance or even push off the top of your front leg once fatigue becomes an issue.

3. Overhead Lungeoverhead lunge

If you’re struggling with keeping your core engaged during a lunge, the overhead lunge is just what you need. Grab a weighted plate and practice lunging with it overhead, locking in everything from your neck to your waist. These are probably familiar to anyone who participated in the CrossFit Open this year.

4. Weighted LungeWeighted Lunges

The weighted lunge is another practice in balance. Grab a kettlebell and hold it at chest level while you complete lunges to make things extra spicy.

5. Front Rack Lungefront rack lunge

If you really want an intense glute or core workout, the front-rack lunge is perfect. Without the use of your hands to provide extra balance, it’s completely up to your hips, butt and legs to keep you on track. The bar should rest on your collar bones and you can grip it as shown or cross your hands over your chest to keep the bar stabilized.

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6. Reverse LungeReverse Lunge

Reverse lunges are great for improving your coordination. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and instead of lunging forward, push one leg back and touch your knee to the ground before returning to the standing position.

7. Lateral Lungeslateral lunge

Lateral lunges are a great warm up or cool down exercise. They get your hips nice and loose and ready to work. To perform a lateral lunge, start with you feet shoulder-width apart and then straighten one leg while leaning your weight into the other leg.

8. Front Leg Pass Underpassunder

The front leg pass under combines all the great elements of a lunge — stength and balance — with hand eye coordination. Start with a kettlebell at chest level. Lean into your lunge and then use one hand to pass the kettlebell underneath your front leg to the other leg before returning to the standing position.

9. Russian Twist Lungesrussian twist

The Russian twist lunge combines two classic CrossFit movement for an all-over workout. As you lunge forward with one leg, turn to the opposite side with a heavy medicine ball, keeping your core tight and engaged the entire time.

10. Mountain Climbersmountain climbers

Mountain climbers are another great warm up exercise for your legs and hips. Start on your knees with your hands on the ground by your shoulders. Then, lift up your knees and jump into a lunge position, staying low to the ground. Alternate your legs as quickly as you can, assuming that lunge position each time.

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