Lunges are a great leg exercise you can do at home or at the gym.  They not only work hamstrings, quads, and calves but require a lot of stabilizing muscles as well for the balance.  Later we will cover some of the many variations but first the basic lunges in place.

Basic Dumbbell Lunges



  1. stand straight
  2. take a big step forward with left leg
  3. lower trailing knee to floor (right knee)
  4. push explosively with leading leg (left leg) to propel you back to the standing position
  5. repeat with the right leg

One step forward and back with the left leg and one step forward and back with the right leg is one rep.  Do 12-16 reps if you are starting out, do 4-8 reps if you are advanced and working on strength/mass.

Form of the dumbbell lunge

Tracking straight: Make sure the knee tracks the way the toes are pointed as you step forward and drop down.  Also make sure that the trailing foot points straight up and down.  There is a tendency to lay the trailing leg on its side to aide in balance, dont do this!   If someone is watching you do this from the front, the hip, knee, ankle, and toes for each leg are all in one vertical plane.

Torso position: The torso should remain basically straight up and down the whole time.  A slight lean forward is OK if its required to counterbalance the weights being held but make sure that the torso angle remains constant.

Knee angle: The more the front knee bends, the more stress it puts on the knee.  If you dont have knee issues then do whatever you want.  If you have had knee issues or want to minimize the chances that you do then dont let your knee go past your toes.  Thats the reason that I said to take a big step because it makes it much harder to get your knee in front of your toes.  Better yet, to remove even more strain from your leading knee, make the lower leg vertical instead of letting it lean forward. Its all about knee angle, the less your knee is bent, the easier it is on your knee.


To make even more knee friendly

As I said, its all about knee angle. If you can reduce the knee angle, its easier on your knees.  In addition to keeping your leading lower leg vertical, you can also only go down partway:



A normal lunge is shown on the right, notice the trailing knee on the ground and notice how much the leading knee is bent – great for a quad workout,, stressful for the knee.  The image on the left is a partial lunge, the trailing knee stops about 8″ (20cm) from the floor.  Notice how the knee is not even bent 90 degrees – much easier on the knee.

Lunge Variations

The lunges as I have described above are perfect for home workouts where you have little space.  If you are at a gym you have other options as well:

  • The walking lunge.  In this lunge, the motion is always forwards and there is no stepping back.  Although this exercise seems the same, it is not.  The lunge done in place using the step backwards uses a whole set of different muscles in the ballistic step back to the starting position.
  • Barbell lunges.  Rather than holding dumbbells in each hand, you can hold a barbell across the shoulders squat-style.  Same exercise, different equipment.
  • Weighted vest lunges. Rather than holding dumbbells in each hand, you can wear a weighted vest.  Same exercise, different equipment.

27 thoughts on “Lunges”

  1. When I do them as you show where you return to your standing position on your back leg, my forward knee hurts. This is one of my issues and I have modified the lunge so that I basically move up- and forwards. Kinda as if I am doing a big step forward. Is this ok and am I working the right muscles or should I find a different method?

  2. A variation I like is to take the big step, lower, then push back just to the point that the front leg is straight (don’t lift your foot off the ground). I do consecutive reps of lowering and raising until failure, then I switch legs. It is sometimes called a split squat – it works well with dumbbells.

  3. I tend to do this as a stretch as I recently pulled my hip flexor in rugby, Very good exercise but I wouldn’t recommend going past stretching if you haven’t got perfect posture.

  4. Scooby, your videos are always spot on! In the future would you consider doing some blog posts on cheat meals? I know that you have a video on cheat meals already but perhaps a more detailed one about calorie perameters (I just feel so guilty about rewarding myself even though i’m good all week – me and my wife have been married for three years and she’s getting pretty tired of my picky cheats :) Also, not trying to dig into your personal life but is your family as much into fitness as you? If not, how do you balance that? My wife likes cardio but she is married to a guy who LOOOOOves running, cycling, lifting and sometimes it’s hard for us to get each other – thanks scoob! Sorry about your hand :( Take it easy bud!

  5. dont want to hijack this thread or anything but is 5X5 good for a teen 16 years old who is lifting for 6 months and have got all his forms right…any help appreciated and wishing hard for your speedy recovery scooby you are my only inspiration …youre the reason i overcame my eating disorder and started working out and gained 9lbs lbm :)

  6. Scooby
    Last night I read an article in which the writer made some ugly  and  seemingly emotion driven accusations about  you and your fitness advice.  I have found your advice to be refreshingly  solid down to earth and  realistic . Instead of promising overnight success with some supplement or new science discovery that affords the ability to pack on the muscle in a matter of weeks. Your advice supports what the natural world shows us, that there is a time of preparing, sowing and reaping no matter the technique or amount of supplements a tree will not! grow overnight. Thanks for reminding us that it takes time,dedication andHARD  WORk! to accomplish our goals.

    I have found that you advice on chest work to include  dumbbell flys very helpful and I am making better gains than I ever did with bench press alone.

    Keep up the good work, carry on my friend


    1. Lots of haters out there. Many do not have the patience required for success and they are jealous of anyone who does. Most of these haters have been working out less than 3 years and think they know everything. They cant conceive of working out for 30 years.

      1. Yep. Being realistic and taking your time prevents injury, burn out, and inconsistency. Working out, and more generally, living a healthy lifestyle, aren’t 2 month commitments, they are life changing and long term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

  7. I’ve enjoyed using lunges for my leg workouts but I’ve always done stationary lunges one leg at a time. I don’t do the step back because it feels unsafe with a high weight. Am I short changing myself by doing stationary vs. step back?

  8. Thanks for the updated video, turns out I wasn’t going as low as I should be with the trailing leg. One question though, I find my shoulders get tired fairly quickly holding the dumbbells so I do my 3 sets of right leg lunges and then 3 sets of left leg lunges, so my shoulders have chance to rest. Is this fine or should I try to find another solution?

  9. Wow Scooby, Great video and information. I like how you added the other leg workouts to this page.
    My calves are pretty well defined thanks to making the wooded gadget made with 2X4s you demonstrated a while ago.
    How about a workout for shins ? I need to work on that…

  10. Only problem I have is a lot of people underestimate the lunge. It’s all “RAWR WHY AREN’T YOU DOING SQUAT AND DEADLIFT” so whenever I do it with any kind of weight I get weird looks.

    Main reason I do lunge is because the gym I go to lacks heavy weight, bar goes to 45kg, dumbbells to 35kg. Hence I do everything dumbbell, and I do lunge rather than squat since it’s single leg.

    Know any other good, single legged exercises I can do with dumbbells?

  11. I was having great difficulty with lunges, because I did not undestand all the geometry. Trailing knee towards touching floor. Push up quickly. I really appreciate this refresher with extra details. Also, stay balanced and “even”. I understand this great excercise better now.

Leave a Reply