Some things just work, and lunges are one of them. This no-equipment exercise has been around a long time, and it’s an effective way to tone and build muscle in your core and lower body. It also improves balance. Just make sure you do them properly so you don’t put unwanted strain on your joints.
Start in a standing position with your spine erect, core engaged, and your feet hip-width apart. Slowly raise your right leg. Maintain your balance and step forward, landing on your heel first and shifting your weight forward. Don’t take too big of a step. As you shift your weight forward, lower your body by bending at your hips and knees until the thigh of your leading leg is parallel with the floor. Your shin will be angled forward. To achieve this, you may need to adjust the length of your step. Your torso may lean forward slightly, but maintain a straight back. You should feel a good stretch in the hip of your trailing leg.
To return to the standing position, firmly push back off your lead foot using your glutes and thigh muscles. Repeat, then switch legs.
You can also do this exercise with weights. Add a pair of dumbbells that weigh enough to make the exercise more challenging. Hold one dumbbell in each hand as you perform the exercise according to the instructions above.
Once you’ve perfected the standing lunge and feel confident about your balance, try this exercise in a walking fashion. Begin in the standing position as described above. Take a step forward with your right foot, lowering your hips and bending your knees as described. From this position, pull your weight forward by engaging your right leg. Come to an upright position with your weight centered on your right foot, and step your left leg forward to initiate the next lunge on your left side.
To focus more of the effort on your quads, shorten your stride and touch the knee of your trailing leg to the ground before pulling yourself forward and taking the next lunge. You can also add weights to this modification.
April 22, 2015
Janet O’Dell, RN