We asked fitness professionals to suggest a few of their favorite alternatives.
As fun as it is to be the guy doing walking lunges across the circus that is your weight room floor, artfully dodging stray pieces of equipment and/or fellow gymgoers staring intently at their smartphones, this part of legs day can be as tedious as it is tiresome. In a moment of desperation, we asked some friendly fitness pros to suggest a few alternatives to this mainstay of your workout routine that you haven’t changed since high school. Disclaimer: You still might have to traverse the gym, but at least you’ll get a better workout doing it.
Idalis Velazquez: Landmine reverse lunges. Attach a barbell to the landmine—that’s the contraption in your gym that stabilizes one end of a barbell on the ground—and hold the other end in one hand. Brace your core and take a big step back with the same leg as the arm holding the barbell. Pause at the bottom of each rep. Be sure to keep your core engaged at all times for balance. The offset loading makes this exercise more difficult, but also allows you to avoid placing a barbell on your back, which many find uncomfortable.
Ben Booker: Single-leg press. I see many people struggle with performing the lunge due to knee or hip issues. A single-leg press performed on a leg press machine is a great way to build knee stability safely and effectively while still getting the strength training benefits of a lunge. If you have a Smith machine available, moving your lunges over there can also be tremendously helpful.
Robin Arzon Bulgarian split squat. Place one foot behind you on an elevated surface and squat down until the back knee touches the floor. This will help to improve balance and target your glutes and quads.
Jay Cardiello: Proprioception lunges. Try moving your lunges to an uneven surface—if you’re on the road, you can even put that extra hotel mattress on the floor and stand on that. Try performing five sets of 30 seconds of lunges on each side without resting between sets.
Gideon Akande: Dumbbell low lunge. The lunge you’ll feel tomorrow and the day after! Grab two dumbbells and perform a standard reverse lunge, but as you do, bring your chest towards your knee and lower the dumbbells on either side of your front foot, as shown here. Stand tall, alternate legs, and repeat. Perform the motion safely by keeping your back flat and your weight mid-foot. This variation provides an additional challenge for the legs and works the extensors in your back, too.
Alexia Clark: Uneven lunges. Hold a weight of some kind on your shoulder—a medicine ball works great—with one hand, like so. Perform a walking lunge, keeping your weight on the heel of your forward foot. Make sure to keep your core tight, and avoid leaning toward the weighted side. Loading the weight like this forces you to engage your oblique muscles, too.
Jennifer Forrester: Step-ups. Step-ups focus on the same muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes) as lunges. This exercise requires a little balance, but it’s pretty simple—just stand up tall, and use your right leg to step up on to an elevated platform. When you place your foot onto the platform, your knee shouldn’t be higher than your hip, so if you notice that your thigh is slanted down toward your hip, the platform is too high. As you step up, raise your left knee to balance against your right leg. Avoid pushing your knee forward past your toes. Hold the position for two seconds, and then repeat on the same side.
TABATA At-Home Leg Workout
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