The lunges is one of the best exercises you can do to strengthen and build mass in your lower body, it is a compound movement that works many muscle groups at once. The lunge primarily targets the quadriceps and glutes, and it will also work the hamstrings, calves, lower back and core. The lunge will also improve your balance and posture.
The lunge is one of the most basic moves for strength trainers, being a whole body movement it is crucial to learn the correct form technique. When done correctly, dumbbell lunges train your legs in a functional manner by mimicking one of the basic human movement patterns similar to walking or running.
The beauty of the lunge is that it gives you greater range of motion. Unlike traditional squats where your feet are parallel, which places the majority of the load squarely on the quads, the lunge’s split stance sparks a deep, powerful contraction along the back portion of the legs. So while your quads are trained hard lunging, the glutes and hamstrings play just as important role.
The lunge can be done as a bodyweight exercise, but if you want more muscle growth and strength, you need to add resistance to work your muscles to their limit. To add weight you can use either a barbell or dumbbells. A barbell is usually more comfortable if you use heavy weight, grip strength tends to be a limiting factor with dumbbells. The benefit of the dumbbells is that it is usually easier to keep balance with them, because it lowers the center of gravity. Also, if you reach muscle failure, you can just drop the dumbbells to your sides, making it is safer.
You can do a stationary lunge or a walking lunge. Its is more recommended to perform a stationery lunge since it is much harder to keep good balance and form doing the walking lunge.
The lunge distance changes what muscles are worked more. Longer lunges emphasize more on the glutes, while shorter lunges will put most of the focus on the quadriceps.
If you feel pain in your knees. The lunge can put a lot of pressure on the knee joints, don't continue this exercise if you feel knee pain. To reduce the pain, try to take a smaller step forward and gradually increase the distance as your knees become stronger overtime. Another option, is to do the reverse lunge, where you take a step back instead of forward. This variation usually puts less strain on the knees.
Lean your torso slightly forward. Most people think a lunge is an upright movement with the torso perpendicular to the ground, but this will put your body in mechanical disadvantage. Maintain a slight forward lean in the torso, so that the center of gravity will be above the front leg. An overly upright torso places greater stress on the knees and low back while minimizing stress to the glutes and upper thighs. That's not what you want.
Keep your chest up. The dumbbells will pull your torso down, causing your shoulders and back to round. Resist this by pushing the chest up and out, and the shoulders back.
Hold your core tight. To protect your spine and lower back under the weight and avoid rounding the back, brace the abs like you're waiting for a punch.
Don't put one foot directly infront of the other. It might be good with a bodyweight lunge, but with dumbbells you might find this simply too hard to balance, put your feet about hip width apart.
Push through the heel. As in squats and deadlifts, to activate the posterior chain muscles, we are pushing through the heel and not through the toes. Pushing through the toes focuses the movement on the knees and quads only.
Keep the heel of your back foot as high as possible. Allowing the body to sag down by dropping the heel of the back foot is a big mistake. This causes the hips to drop down and forward, removing the engagement of the posterior chain while placing too much stress on the lumber spine. Instead, Try to keep the back foot perpendicular to the ground, with all your on the balls of the back foot.
Most of the weight should be placed on the front leg. Usually you should put around 75% of your weight on the front leg, and the rest 25% on the rear leg.
The leading knee should point to the same direction as the foot. Otherwise, the knee might twist causing loss of balance or even injury. Also, don't let your knee to fall inward or outward.
Don't let your knee go past you toes. This will put a lot of unwanted pressure on the knee joint, try to keep the knee directly above the ankle.