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December 14, 2022
Lunges are a staple in most lower body routines, and it's easy to see why. With an endless assortment of variations, they provide workout versatility, ensuring you can effectively build muscle and improve athleticism without getting bored.
One of our favorites? Walking lunges, a unilateral exercise designed to increase strength and build your lower body and core muscles, all while improving balance and mobility.
What makes it even greater is that unlike many other lunge variations, like the forward lunge, for example, the walking lunge enables you to move around. In fact, the ability to keep moving is the bread and butter of this exercise, and you’ll feel it making everyday tasks infinitely easier.
Let's get into all things walking lunge related! This article will discuss:
The walking lunge is a member of the lunge family, meaning it’s a single-leg exercise. It is a powerhouse move with the ability to elevate your heart rate like cardio, build strength and tone muscles, improve balance, and increase lower body mobility.
And unlike other lunge variations that require staying stationary, stepping back to the starting position, or performing a lunge forward and backward without moving, the walking lunge allows you to travel forward and walk directly through to the next lunge.
The lunge walk puts all of your leg muscles to work, making it an awesome move to include in your next lower body workout. Here's a closer look at the muscles that walking lunges target.
We will go over several variations of the lunge in a bit, including weighted walking lunges, but for this how-to, we'll focus on the bodyweight walking lunge.
Performing walking lunges is good for strength training, but it can also be used for cardio as the move gets the heart rate nice and high. Prepare to feel the burn in this lunge position!
How to do the Walking Lunge:
Master your walking lunge form by avoiding these 6 mistakes. Remember, if you want to build muscle and get the most out of this exercise, correct form is key!
Avoid putting your feet too close together while stepping into the lunge. Instead of stepping with one foot directly in front of the other, try lunging like you are on train tracks that are hip-width apart.
This will help keep your feet in the correct line so you can maintain your balance.
Cutting the lunge short and not going all the way down is not only a mistake, it immediately removes some of the lunge's unique benefits. When you sink into the exercise, your muscles must work through the entire range of motion to strengthen and stretch enough to force muscle growth.
Aim to take your back knee as close to the ground as possible.
If you take a step that is too long, you may end up injuring your groin or hip flexors. If you step too short, you will struggle to maintain your balance and may cause knee pain.
Aim for 2 feet or so. To verify this, make sure both knees resemble 90 degree angles at the bottom of the movement.
Since the walking lunge requires you to keep moving right into the next lunge, the upper body may start to lean forward to try to help you shift as you lunge. This is a common occurrence when you're trying to work too quickly to complete a set.
This can lead to low back pain as your core is not engaging the way it needs to. Ensure your abs are engaged, and your upper body is perpendicular to the floor.
Another symptom of moving too quickly through the exercise is lifting your front heel as you bend your knee, which can put unnecessary strain on your knee. Focus on keeping your entire foot down, driving through the heel on each exercise.
If your foot or ankle does not have the mobility required to do this, you may want to consider some lunge alternatives until it improves enough to do the walking lunge.
If you feel your knee caving in during the lunge, it is likely another symptom of moving too fast and having a poor mind-muscle connection. Try to keep your ankle, knee, and hip in one line, and ensure your knee is not caving in or out.
There are plenty of great reasons to include a walking lunge in your routine. Here's a look at the 5 best benefits of walking lunges.
As a unilateral exercise, the lunge works one leg at a time. The squat, on the other hand, is a bilateral exercise that works both legs. The squat is the king of building strength for the lower body, but if your muscle imbalances get too out of whack, it will lead to an injury.
Walking lunges are good for returning both legs back to equal strength, ensuring they are not only aesthetically similar but are both working correctly to stabilize your body.
Not only do lunges fix the imbalances in your muscles, but they also increase mobility due to their increased range of motion. The lunge allows a bigger range of motion that improves hip, ankle, and hamstring mobility.
This can be challenging if your mobility is poor from the start. But if you work slowly and progress week to week, you will slowly see considerable mobility benefits.
Lunges don’t just isolate one muscle. It is a compound exercise that simultaneously activates multiple lower body muscle groups.
This prevents you from needing too many exercises in your routine, while strengthening your leg muscles and acting as a functional movement that has direct carryover into everyday tasks.
Bodyweight walking lunges can be done anywhere. You can do them in the gym, at home, the track - as long as you have some space to move, you can do them!
After working on walking lunges for some time, returning to exercises like the back squat may leave you pleasantly surprised. If you had been replacing squats with lunges, you likely fixed some imbalances and may find you're just as strong, if not stronger, now that your body is more balanced.
Walking lunges also have a direct carryover to running, helping to improve stride length and mobility, while increasing stamina.
Single-leg training should be a pillar of every leg workout. With all of its benefits, walking lunges are fantastic for everyone, particularly for those looking to improve their mobility and movement, whether for day-to-day life or sports.
So, to recap, who should do the walking lunge? Almost everyone. There are a few groups who should avoid it, which we're about to get into.
Here are a few groups who may want to avoid the walking lunge.
If you are new to any type of exercise, a single leg variation may be too challenging for your balance, strength, and mobility. Something as simple as a squat to a box may be a better alternative as you build strength and body awareness during your movements.
If your feet and ankles are so tight that you cannot keep your heel on the floor during the lunge, you will not be able to perform the exercise through the range of motion needed. Focus on ankle mobility exercises first, and then add in the walking lunge.
Similar to the ankle, if your hip flexors are tight, you may need to spend some extra time stretching and strengthening them first, so they are not locked up during this movement.
If during the descent you feel something is about to pop in your hips, that’s a clear warning sign your body is nervous about the movement.
Progressive overload is always the name of the game, and these 4 variations will ensure you keep making gains.
Walking dumbbell lunges are a progression from the standard bodyweight walking lunge as the exercise adds weight to increase resistance during the movement.
The main benefit that walking weighted lunges have over the back-stepping lunge, stationary lunge, and front-stepping lunge is that the moving variation can increase your heart rate significantly. More calories burned!
How to do the Walking Dumbbell Lunge:
A barbell walking lunge is another progression to add more weight to lunge walks. You can likely load more weight onto the bar than you can hold with dumbbells.
This move can be tough to do in a crowded gym, but if you have access to the space, the muscle hypertrophy you can achieve will be well worth it. It’s going to be the ultimate strength builder for the lunge, but make sure to master earlier progressions first.
How to do Barbell Front Rack Walking Lunges:
This variation uses kettlebells in the front rack position to add an extra challenge for your core and upper back. It will also add some extra stimulus to your quads if your goals focus more on building that muscle group.
The load is distributed like a front squat, requiring your abs to work twice as hard to maintain an upright torso and protect your spine. With benefits like this, it's a must for any workout split!
How to do the Front Rack Kettlebell Walking Lunge:
Dumbbell walking lunges give your core excellent anti-flexion benefits. This is the same as the dumbbell variation listed above, but you will only be holding one dumbbell at a time.
That means your upper body will want to be pulled to the side that's holding the weight. Your goal is to not let that happen.
How to do Contralateral Dumbbell Walking Lunges:
Whether you're dealing with an injury or are a lifting beginner, walking lunges with weights aren't for everyone. Instead, try these 3 alternatives instead.
Looking for a great walking lunge alternative? Instead of stepping into your next lunge, perform a stationary lunge staying in one spot the entire time. This will immediately remove the most challenging part of the lunge, the walking.
The split squat is an excellent alternative if the motion of stepping through is too challenging for your balance.
How to do the Split Squat:
You can perform a single leg squat with your bodyweight, adding resistance as your strength grows. Don't confuse this move with a pistol squat, which is a much more advanced single-leg variation.
In this single-leg squat, use a bench to provide support and something to aim for. This is an excellent alternative if you have mobility issues in your hips or ankles during the squat or if your muscles need to be strengthened before progressing to the walking lunge.
How to do the Single Leg Squat:
This is a step up from stationary traditional lunge exercises, yet it still provides stability benefits as you are stepping. Commonly used for people that have knee pain with the front stepping lunge, the back leg takes the stress off the front knee while continuing to work your lower body's major muscle groups.
How to do the Dumbbell Reverse Lunge:
Keep in mind that the walking lunges exercise is a great choice, but some exercisers may need an alternative. And as far as the order of importance goes when integrating walking lunges into your routine, it will not be at the top of the list for building strength.
On lower body days, put the walking lunge after your compound movement, whether it's a squat or deadlift. Aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for each leg to improve imbalances and build muscle. As with any exercise, you need to begin with whatever progression you can handle and improve from there.
This leg workout provides the perfect combination of building muscle and strength, while including unilateral exercises that target improved mobility and athleticism.
Single-leg training should be a staple in any fitness program. Unless you have mobility issues or are brand new to this type of exercise, you need a single leg exercise in your training.
Even if you have mobility or balance issues, you can still slowly begin to work on them. It'll be worth the effort! Walking lunges provide amazing benefits and should never be skipped.
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