Lunges are a worthy mainstay of fitness regimens for people of all skill levels, from those simply trying to stay in shape to elite amateur and professional athletes. This tried-and-true exercise is simple to master, effective and provides several physical benefits. Lunges work well for warming up or lower body strength training.
Basic lunges, also known as forward or static lunges, take advantage of your body weight to strengthen the leg muscles, especially the quadriceps of your front thigh. The hamstrings, located in your posterior thigh, and the gastrocnemius and soleus of the calf are also worked when you perform lunges. The forward leg does most of the work during a forward lunge, which is why it is important to alternate legs while performing this exercise.
Men and women alike appreciate a toned derriГЁre and lunges are a good option to improve this area. According to the American Council on Exercise, lunges are one of the best exercises to strengthen your gluteal muscles and give your bottom a firm, rounded shape. Other effective glute-toning options include squats, four-way hip extensions and stepups.
Lunges improve your core strength, which leads to better posture and balance. Your core muscles include those of your abdomen, back, chest, pelvis and buttocks. These muscles perform the critical function of enabling you to adjust and maintain your position without losing your balance. Improving your core strength by practicing lunges enhances your balance and may prevent back pain due to poor posture.
Sitting for extended periods may cause tightness in the muscles that bend, or flex, your legs at the hips. Lunges stretch these muscles, improving the flexibility of your hip joints and preventing low back pain caused by tight hip flexors. You can increase the hip-stretching effect of a forward lunge by resting your lower knee on the floor, tightening your abdominal and gluteal muscles, and moving your hips slightly forward while in the lunge position. This variation of the forward lunge is called a hip flexor, or Samson, stretch. Other variations of the forward lunge, such as side and long lunges, also keep your hip joints flexible.
To gain maximum benefit from forward lunges and to avoid injuries, position your body carefully when performing the exercise. Keep your back straight and avoid leaning forward as you lower your body. Align your shoulders with your hips throughout the exercise, and keep your head up and facing forward. Maintain your forward knee over your ankle as you lower your back knee toward the floor; avoid extending the knee of your forward leg past your ankle. If you feel wobbly, use a chair or the wall to steady yourself when you practice lunges.