Hold dumbbells for added resistance.
Lunges are a tried and true exercise move for good reason. Both forward and back lunges are excellent for toning the muscles of the lower body including the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. Lunges can be done anytime, anywhere, with no equipment, so there is no reason not to incorporate them in your exercise routine unless you have a history of knee or hip joint trauma or injury.
Learning to Lunge
Both back and forward lunges start with your feet together in an upright stance. Draw your shoulder blades back and down and engage your core for balance and stability. For a forward lunge, take a large step forward and land on your heel. Shift your weight on to the front foot and sink your hips down until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Push off the front foot to return to the starting position. For the back lunge, take a large step back with one foot and land with your toes curled under and forward. Sink your hips down until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Push off the ball of the back foot to return to the starting position.
Feel the Burn
Both types of lunges will challenge your lower body. A forward lunge places a lot of stress on your gluteus maximus, medius and hamstring muscles, according to assistant professor of exercise science at Miramar College and American Council on Exercise expert Jessica Matthews, M.S. The backward lunge places more stress on the quadriceps, the large muscle at the front of your thigh.
Pros and Cons of the Forward Lunge
The forward lunge is similar in motion to a normal walking gait, so it reinforces and strengthens balance. The exercise elicits more muscle activity and is far more challenging than other body-weight exercises for the lower body, according to Matthews. ACE personal trainer, Jonathan Ross, explains that forward lunges can be tough on your knees because you accelerate your body weight forward through space and must push off the bottom of the movement with a lot of force to return to a standing position. Individuals with a history of knee problems should consult their physician before performing forward lunges.
Considering the Backward Lunge
Stepping backward is not a normal part of day-to-day activity. The backward lunge challenges your lower body muscles to do something unexpected. Because you step back and then shift your weight, a backward lunge is considered a deceleration move. In order to return to start, you push up and then step forward which breaks the difficult motion into two, more manageable parts. Deceleration exercises are less intense and place less stress on the joints, which makes the back lunge a good option for individuals with knee or hip problems, explains Matthews.