If you’re looking to build lower body strength, lunges are one of the best exercises you can add to your workout. This single-leg exercise works your quads, hamstrings, core, and glutes all at the same time.
There are many variations of this unilateral movement you can try, including the walking lunge.
What is a walking lunge?
The walking lunge is a great strength training exercise that targets the lower body and can be performed at the gym or from the comfort of your own home.
The motion in the walking lunge is key. 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.
The benefits of walking lunge and the muscles targeted
The walking lunge is a compound exercise meaning it targets several muscle groups at once including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, and calves.
They’re a great way to develop unilateral leg function, strength, and help muscle imbalances as you work one leg at time.
Try putting this exercise towards the start of a workout to get the most from the movement.
How to perform the walking lunge
If you’ve got a bit of space and you’re ready, then let’s do it.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
Walking lunge variations and alternative exercises
Walking lunges can be performed in a large gym space or outside. If your gym doesn’t have enough space to perform this exercise, there are some variations and alternatives you can try which target the same muscle groups.
The walking lunge can be a difficult exercise to master., Perfecting the technique in a static lunge will help you during 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 done 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 hard again by holding dumbbells, a weight plate, or even using a barbell on your back.
Reverse walking lunge
You might think that the reverse lunge is exactly the same as the forward lunge but in reverse, and you’d be more or less right.
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.
Dumbbell walking lunge
Performing walking lunges with a dumbbell, or any type of weight, increases the difficulty and benefit 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.
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
This is one of the most common lunge errors. By 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.
One way you can spot if you’re leaning too far forward is your front knee extending past your toes during the lunge.
Leaning too far backwards
You might 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.
Take Home Message
Walking lunges are one of the best lower body exercises you can add to your workout. They target the quads, hamstrings, core, and glutes all at the same time, with variations of the exercise to keep things interesting in the gym.
Following these tips will help you perfect the technique, so you can get all the benefits of this strength building exercise.