Walking lunges are one of the best movements to add to your workouts if you’re looking to build lower body strength. This single-leg exercise works your quads, hamstrings, core, and glutes all at the same time.
The best thing about lunges is the fact they don’t just test your body but also your balance and coordination as well as there being so many variations of this unilateral movement you can try, Such as the walking lunge.
The walking lunge is a great strength training exercise that targets the lower body and can be performed either at the gym or from the comfort of your own home. The key difference in a walking lunge is rather than staying stationary, like in the traditional lunge, you push forward from the back leg and pull forward from the front leg — creating the walking motion.
It targets all the muscles in your lower body, and because you’re continually stepping forward you’ll also engage your core muscles with every step. They provide an intense burn and can be progressed to challenge even the most conditioned legs.
How to perform the walking lunge
Find yourself a bit of space and get ready, because it’s time to take on the walking lunge.
- Take a big step forward with your left or right leg and slowly drop your back knee towards the ground. Make sure your toes are pointing forwards, hips are tucked under, and your front knee does not move past your ankle.
- As you drop to the ground, stop when your leading knee reaches slightly below 90° and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Remember to not let your back knee touch the ground – this ensures your muscles are fully activated throughout the movement.
- Push off your front foot and drive the back leg forward to step straight into another forward lunge. Keep your torso upright and core activated as you move.
- Returning to the standing position between each step can provide a small rest and can help you keep your form on each rep.
You should feel this in your quads and glutes; if your lower back starts to ache, check your form in the gym mirror as you may be leaning too far forward.
The muscles targeted in a walking lunge
The walking lunge is a great compound exercise which means it targets several muscle groups at once including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, and calves.
It also requires good coordination and stability so can be a great exercise to get your mind focused as well as working on your core.
The benefits of walking lunges
As with most strength training exercises, walking lunges are great for developing overall strength in the lower body and help build a stronger foundation for everyday movements as well as other strength work. The movement mimics everyday activities like standing up, sitting, and stepping forward to pick something up off the floor which can help make these everyday movements easier in real life.
They’re also a great way to develop unilateral leg function, strength, and help muscle imbalances as you work one leg at a time. Which can challenge you both physically and mentally.
They are great for improving mobility and range of movement by increasing flexibility and loosening up both your hips and hamstrings. The increased mobility can helo to improve posture and balance.
Common mistakes and how to fix them
Just like any exercise, the walking lunge is all about technique. You can check your form in the mirror or ask the PT at your gym who will be happy to help.
Leaning too far forward
One of the most common lunge errors is leaning too far forward, by either driving your knee over the foot or not keeping your torso upright. When leaning too far forward you’re putting all the emphasis onto your quads, so you’re missing out on the full benefits of the exercise, which should require your entire leg muscle to perform the movement correctly.
One way you can spot if you’re leaning too far forward is your front knee extending past your toes during the lunge, or you're leaning your upper body forward. Try and keep your core engaged and your chest lifted, and sink down into the movement rather than forward.
Leaning too far backwards
You can potentially have the opposite problem when you lunge, by leaning too far backwards. Again, you’re missing out on the full range of benefits of the exercise, as the leg you’re lunging with is doing less work.
Leaning during a lunge can be an indicator of an unstable core. Try building strength in your core to help stabilise you during a walking lunge. Keep your chest lifted, lift your head towards the ceiling, and pull your shoulders back and down. Make sure
Walking lunge variations and alternative exercises
Walking lunges can be performed in either a larger gym space or even outside, however, if your gym or home doesn’t have enough space to perform this exercise, there are some variations and alternatives you can try which target the same muscle groups.
1. Static lunge
The walking lunge can be a difficult exercise to master, and its key to stay stable and balanced throughout. It could be a good option to perfect the technique in a static lunge to help you when progressing to the walking lunge, while still building muscle and strength in your lower body.
To do a static lunge, take a large step forward and drop the back knee towards the ground to lower your body slightly. Instead of pushing forward as is done in the walking lunge, push back up. Once you've completed a set on one leg, swap your stance to the other leg and go again.
As these become easier, you can add weight to make it harder again by holding dumbbells, a weight plate, or even using a barbell on your back.
2. Reverse walking lunge
A lot of people think that the reverse lunge is exactly the same as the forward lunge but in reverse, and you’d be more or less right. Reverse movements challenge your balance and coordination a lot more than the forward ones and also get your mind thinking and your body guessing.
Start by standing straight and tightening your core muscles. Take a step backwards with your left or right foot. Bend your other knee until it’s at 90°, and lower your front knee until it’s also at a right angle. Push back up and return to the starting position.
3. Dumbbell walking lunge
Performing walking lunges with a dumbbell, or any type of weight, increases the difficulty and benefits for your legs.
Once you’ve mastered the walking lunge, grab a dumbbell in each hand and repeat the exercise. You’ll notice the increased effort your legs need to move, whilst working your core harder to keep you balanced and your torso stable.
Take Home Message
Walking lunges are by far one of the best lower body exercises you can add to your workout. They target the entire leg from your quads, hamstrings, core, to your glutes all at the same time, and there are so many variations of the exercise to make sure you keep things interesting in the gym or at home.
Following these tips will help you perfect the technique, so you can get all the benefits of this strength-building exercise and build one strong set of legs!