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January 21, 2023
In search of an exercise that not only activates the same muscles as the lunge but also targets your essential lower body stabilizer muscles? Look no further than the often-overlooked curtsy lunge, which effectively emphasizes your lower body while improving hip stability.
The curtsy lunge is a variation of a traditional lunge that can be used to build muscle, included as a dynamic warm-up, or even incorporated into a cardio routine.
It's a great addition to any workout program, making it an essential one to learn how to perform and program correctly.
This article will discuss:
The curtsy lunge is a functional compound exercise that targets the legs, helping to build strength and stability in the lower body. The standard lunge is a staple in most lower-body strength programs, but if you've been following the same workout for quite a while, your go-to lifts, like the lunge, may start to feel stale.
A great way to freshen up a workout routine is by adding variations, such as the curtsy lunge.
In addition, this variation targets the inner thighs and gluteus medius, a muscle that has a tendency to become underactive. The curtsy lunge can improve your movement quality and level up your big lifts, like squats and deadlifts, by strengthening secondary leg muscles and posture.
Let’s dive deeper into everything you need to know about curtsy lunges, including how to do them and incorporate them into your routine.
Get the most out of your curtsy lunge by following proper form. This how-to is for the bodyweight curtsy lunge, which you should first master before moving on to a weighted variation or another progression.
How to do a Curtsy Lunge:
Here are a few extra tips to help you perfect your curtsy lunge.
So, what do curtsy lunges work? The primary muscles targeted are the quadriceps and glutes. Let's take a closer look at each of these, in addition to the secondary muscles worked.
All four muscles of the quadriceps, which include the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius, are activated during this exercise, which directly translates to building strength in squatting patterns of the lower body.
The curtsy lunge activates all three gluteal muscles, which include the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.
Both gluteus medius and minimus are strained more in the curtsy position in comparison to traditional lunges and squats. The glute muscles play a big role in stabilizing the hips in relation to the movement.
The curtsy lunge targets the inner and outer thighs, in addition to the lower legs. The secondary muscles that are targeted in the curtsy lunge are the adductors and calves. The adductors stabilize the front leg in the curtsy position and pull the back leg back to the center once a repetition is completed.
The calves, both the soleus and gastrocnemius, work as stabilizers within the loaded front legs.
Once you see all of the great benefits of curtsy lunges, you'll be shocked you didn't include this exercise in your workout split sooner!
Here are four of the best curtsy lunges benefits.
This is one of our favorite curtsy lunge benefits. Curtsy lunges can be done anywhere with minimal space and equipment. They can be added as a dynamic warm-up prior to workouts like running, yoga, and strength training.
Curtsy lunges can also be used as a main movement in a cardio circuit, incorporated with other bodyweight exercises.
This movement is low-impact and a great exercise for beginners to learn, as well as anyone looking to avoid high-impact movements. The curtsy lunge exercise can be used in place of jumping jacks, lateral skiers, high knees, and more.
Instead of jumping, a simple alternating curtsy with an emphasis on pushing away from the ground and activating the lower body is an effective variation.
Whether programmed using your body weight or with resistance, the curtsy lunge helps strengthen the lower body, making it a great exercise to include in any leg workout. One of the reasons the curtsy form is so great is that it provides movement versatility the lower body needs in order to gain strength in all ranges and planes of motion.
There may be muscle groups that are lagging during main lifts like squats and deadlifts, and the curtsy can help by targeting muscle imbalances and activating muscles that need to be supported more.
Whether you’re trying to increase the weights used when performing squats or deadlifts or your goal is to improve functional movement patterns, the curtsy lunge will help you develop primary and secondary muscle strength.
The curtsy motion of crossing one leg behind the other challenges the body’s alignment and control. The leg stabilizers are especially targeted when you slow down the curtsy and focus on keeping balance throughout the entire range of motion.
Incorporating single-leg exercises like the curtsy lunge and other variations of lunges helps to improve any imbalances existing between your right and left sides. This emphasizes your mind-muscle connection, increases your muscle memory, and improves your ability to perform seamless repetitions over time.
You'll only reap the curtsy lunge benefits if your form is spot on. To ensure you build muscle and remain injury-free, avoid these mistakes.
When your torso falls forward in the curtsy position, core and glute activation are lost. Practicing an upright posture while actively engaging your core can connect you deeper with the movement and allow you to feel the muscles that are actively engaging.
If you feel like your chest is dropping forward even as you're actively trying to keep it upright, use a TRX strap to practice maintaining posture while lowering your body with control. When you’re ready, move away from the TRX and practice bodyweight repetitions in front of the mirror, keeping an eye on your form.
When first learning the curtsy lunges exercise, many gym goers have a tendency to open through the hips and rotate away from the loaded/front leg. However, the hips should stay squared toward the front for a proper curtsy, activating the right muscles and balancing your legs.
Keeping your hips squared helps connect the torso and hips, making sure the body moves in unison. Place your hands on your hips for external guidance. This way, you’ll be able to feel any shift within your hips.
Partial repetitions fail to provide the full benefits of the curtsy lunge. Make sure your front knee and thigh are hitting a parallel position relative to the ground and the opposite knee hovers just above the ground before pushing back into your starting lunge position.
Use a soft yoga block placed on the ground as a target for the bending leg as a guide to making sure you’re bending down low enough. As you get more practice reps in, you’ll be able to recognize full and partial reps just by the way they feel.
Depending on your anatomy and movement pattern efficiency, your curtsy may look and function differently than someone else's. However, with any lunge, an excessive knee drive over the toes causes additional stress on the knees and can lead to potential injuries.
To avoid this, sink into your hips and allow your hips and knees to simultaneously bend while initiating the lunge pattern. This helps distribute the weight of your body and limits unnecessary strain on the joints, sending tension to the muscles instead.
If the standard curtsy lunge is bothersome for your joints or inaccessible to your range of motion, instead include one of these curtsy lunge modifications in your routine.
You can also opt to perform partial range curtsy lunges as you adjust to the movement.
Although partial ranges are not always recommended, as long as you’re working your way to complete full curtsy lunges, you’ll see improvement and benefits by practicing these.
Start with a modification and slowly work your way up to a full range of motion bodyweight curtsy lunge.
It’s just like your standard bodyweight curtsy lunge but with additional support using TRX straps. The TRX straps help you maintain more of an upright posture throughout the movement. This is a great opportunity to work on form and alignment through the curtsy.
What’s beneficial about using TRX straps is the ability to adjust how much assistance you want to use. When you’re ready to put more of your own weight into the curtsy position, use less of a pull on the TRX and rely more on your legs to push you through the form. Remember, the more your leg muscles work, the better for muscle hypertrophy.
The lateral lunge is similar to the curtsy because it challenges you to shift weight onto one leg. Also, lateral lunges target the secondary stabilizing muscles, helping you maintain balance and stability. With the lateral lunge, you’ll feel your weight shift to one leg at a time, while you practice keeping your hips and torso squared to the front.
Practice alternating sides for the lateral lunges similarly to how you would perform alternating curtsy lunges, which gets you used to moving side to side. And don't forget to progressive overload this exercise when you're ready by adding weights.
Stepping up on a box that is around 1-2 feet tall is a great way to start connecting your mind and body to the outer glutes and inner thighs. Position the side of your body next to the box. Without rotating, step one foot on the box and press into a standing stance.
This is a safe and effective way to practice single-leg loading. Once you’ve completed 8-12 reps on one side, switch to the other. You can also replicate a moving side-to-side motion by raising up on one leg and slowly lowering down on the other.
Once you’re comfortable and familiar with the curtsy lunge, increase the intensity by adding additional resistance. Adding weight is dependent on your comfort, level, and overall strength.
The most important factor is your ability to maintain proper form even with additional weight. Here are ways to start loading your curtsy:
Ready to switch things up or make this move harder? A simple strategy is to add a 2-second pause at the bottom of each of your curtsy lunges.
Or, you can try any of these great variations.
Adding a pulse to the bottom range of your curtsy lunge not only challenges your ability to control the bottom position, but it makes for a great quad exercise and challenges your glute stability. Dip down into your curtsy position, slightly lift up, dip back down, and come back to your start position.
If you’re looking to “burn out” the muscles, pulse for as many controlled repetitions as you can on one side before standing back up.
Primarily used as a cardiovascular movement alternative, the curtsy lunge with a kick is a way to challenge the loaded leg and your balance. The leg that steps back into the crossover position then kicks out to the side as you step to your starting stance.
Instead of alternating sides, stay on one side at a time to target the loaded leg. Complete this movement in one, fluid motion. Switch sides once the designated reps/time is completed.
Want to make this harder? Add one or two dumbbells to really feel the burn!
Adding in power and speed to the curtsy form, complete a controlled repetition on one side. Then, as you come up to standing, jump into your next repetition for the curtsy on the other side.
Maintain a more upright position as you dip down into your curtsy, allowing your body to slightly shift forward as you jump to the other side. Jump as far out as you’re comfortable, while still being able to catch yourself in a stable position for your next rep. This is a great addition to a HIIT routine.
As listed above, there are many ways to add weight to your curtsy lunge. When you’re ready to progress this exercise, choose the most practical option to challenge your curtsy. When adding weights, it may throw your balance off and compromise your form. This will make your stabilizer muscles and core muscles work extra hard.
Adjust when needed and decrease the weight if necessary. Weighted curtsy lunge options include the dumbbell curtsy lunge, kettlebell curtsy lunge, or even the barbell curtsy lunge.
Incorporating curtsy lunges into your routine is dependent on your goals. They can be programmed into your leg-only workouts or full-body routine. It’s really up to you!
For strength-specific days, complete 8-10 total weighted repetitions of 3-4 sets as your accessory movement after squats or deadlifts. Another way to incorporate the curtsy lunge is as part of your warm-up or in a circuit.
As a warm-up, include the curtsy into your dynamic routine, completing 1-2 minutes of constant controlled repetitions. As for a cardiovascular routine, hit high repetitions of 12-20 total repetitions for a round of 3-5 sets with light weights or body weight.
The volume of curtsy lunges will depend on your overall goal for that workout and future progressions. Make sure to slowly ease your way into higher reps and heavier weights. It will more than likely take your body a few sessions to adapt to the curtsy position, especially if this is the first time you’re consistently incorporating them.
Strengthen your legs, glutes, and hips with the curtsy lunge. Whether you’re just starting your movement journey or you’re well-versed in lower body variations and looking for a new challenge, take advantage of all the benefits that curtsy lunges provide!
Looking for another great lunge variation to include in your routine? Check out how to perform walking lunges, an exercise that will improve your balance and athleticism while building muscle!
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