The lunge is a basic and accessible unilateral leg strength and hip stability exercise.
Starting in your squat stance, step one leg forward and bend both knees until the back knee very lightly touches the floor. Step long enough that in this bottom position, the front shin is approximately vertical.
Push back off the front leg into the starting position.
The length of the step can be adjusted to change emphasis—longer steps will emphasize the glutes and hamstrings more, and shorter steps with the knee moving in front of the toes will emphasize the quads more. Generally we want a vertical shin in front for the most broadly applicable benefits. This will also strengthen the hip flexors of the back leg.
The lunge can be loaded with just about any implement from a barbell on the back or clean rack position, to one or two dumbbells or kettlebells on the shoulders, at arms’ length, or overhead.
Many athletes try to load lunges too heavily and lose the position in which the exercise will be most effective. If you can’t maintain a controlled descent into the bottom of the lunge, maintain an upright trunk, and maintain balance between the feet, reduce the weight.
The lunge is the simplest unilateral leg exercise and can be used to improve strength and flexibility balance in the hips, correct imbalanced strength in the legs, improve the strength of the split position for the jerk, or for hypertrophy in addition to squatting.
Sets of 3-10 reps per leg are usually appropriate with weight that allows a full length step, smooth movement and no crashing into the bottom position. Light or unloaded lunges can be done with 15-20 reps as well if using them for work capacity or rehab.
The lunge can be loaded in many ways, such as with a barbell in the clean rack position or overhead, dumbbells or kettlebells at the sides, on the shoulders or overhead, with a single dumbbell or kettlebell in any of those positions, or one of each. It can also be done as a walking lunge—rather than stepping back with the front foot after each rep, step the back foot forward to meet the front foot. It can also be done by stepping one foot backward.