What Muscles do Lunges Work – While popular exercises like squats, leg presses, alternating leg and leg extensions are all staples in most bodybuilding routines for the lower body, an exercise you do not want to forget is lunges. Lunges are an excellent single leg workout that not only can round off lower body development but also target balance and improve athletic ability. However, you may wonder exactly what muscles do lunges work as well as how. This article will look at this as well as different lunge variations.
General lunge considerations
As whole lunges direct the quadriceps and buttocks directly while indirectly targeting the hamstrings and posterior chain. The quadriceps and glutes are worked in the opposite way, in which in the repetitions where the left knee is forward, the left quadriceps and right buttocks are being worked. On the other hand, the right quadriceps and left gluteus are being directed when the right knee is forward.
One topic that should be mentioned at this time would be the involvement of the hip extensor. The general consensus is that you should perform lunges with an upright trunk, and have to lean forward while lunging is indicative of tight hip flexors – a matter of flexibility that may need to be addressed. However, if a trainee does not have tight hip flexors, then intentionally leaning forward may increase hip flexor recruitment (according to a study by the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy). This can be beneficial for you if your hip flexors are really weak and need to be strengthened.
Forward and backward mergers
When they move forward, the “working” muscles are those that are in the “stretched” position during movement – that is why the quadriceps and glutes are worked in the opposite way as mentioned above. Hamstrings are also directed indirectly, but only as forward involuntary tipping may be indicative of flexible hip flexors, the inability to move too far forward (or backward) may be indicative of tight hamstrings and/or buttocks. A smart progression is to move to a safe distance for you and increase distance said over time. Do not let your front knee travel out on your toes and consider starting with just your body weight if you find that you do not have a good balance.
One problem with the front lunges is that because you are advancing and “landing” with the lead foot, you can create a lot of shear forces through that knee forward. This can lead to injuries or chronic pain over time, especially if your balance is not the best yet. A better option would be to do a reverse hit instead. This will eliminate the shear forces as well as allow you to place a greater concentration on keeping your torso erect. When doing a reverse thrust, you will probably also feel a great emphasis on the VMO (vast medial oblique – the “teardrop” shaped muscle just above the knee) and the glutes.
Although technically still a “lunging” exercise, side lunges are quite different than their forward and reverse counterparts in which the quadriceps and glutes are much less targeted. Instead, the abductors and adductors are most heavily targeted – the hijacker on the side where you are jumping toward the adductor and on the other leg, then vice versa in the other direction. So, for example, if you are jumping right, you will work the abductor on your right leg and adductor on your left leg.
Just be careful when doing lateral lunges as they can cause more cutting force than front/reverse lunges, as most side-to-side trainees stability is not as good as longitudinal (forward and backward ). This is all the truer if you do not have great balance.
A lunge walk is essentially a forward lunge, alternating legs each in each movement, only instead of returning to the starting position, you bring the leg of course forward to meet the leg forward. The path leg then becomes the front leg, and you repeat. Then you would move forward with your left leg, take your right leg forward to find it, move forward with your right leg, bring your left leg forward, and so on. This variation puts much more focus on the main leg and will be especially felt around the VMO.
Lunges are a great overall leg workout, and implementing them into your bodybuilding routine would be a good idea for a better-rounded development. However, while you may be worried about what muscles do work lunges while creating your overall program, just ensure that you keep safety in mind. Well developed muscles are not possible if you are lying on the shelf with a knee injury because you pushed a very hard and very fast exercise that does not need it. Save heavy and hard work for squats and leg presses – keep the lunges moderated and controlled.