Second only to the squat, the lunge is one of the best leg exercises of all time. The only reason the deadlift isn’t in this spot is because you need some form of weight to complete it. The lunge, on the other hand, can be done without any weight whatsoever. That means that no matter where you are or the equipment you have access to, you can still get in a good leg workout.
However, after a while, the normal lunge can become a bit repetitive and boring. Not to mention, you need to shake up your training every once in a while to stop your body from fully adapting.
Below, you’ll find the top 17 bodyweight lunge variations to keep your training both interesting and effective.
1. Standard Forward Lunge
Before delving into the more intense variations, you need to first conquer the standard forward lunge. Establishing a strong foundation is key to making sure the subsequent variations are as safe and effective as possible.
Begin with our feet together and your core tight. Take one big step forward and lower your body to the floor. Ideally, your front knee should be above your ankle. Next, press with the same leg you extended forward to push yourself back into a standing position before repeating on the opposite leg.
2. Reverse Lunge
A reverse lunge is exactly as it sounds: instead of stepping forward, you take a step backwards and push with the leg behind you. The benefit to a reverse lunge is that it translates more to athletic sports. Activities such as running and jumping involve pushing with your trailing leg, and so training reverse lunges can make you run faster and jump higher. They also tend to be a little harder than the standard lunge, requiring more balance and co-ordination.
3. Walking Lunges
Walking lunges are a great way to work at a higher intensity to ensure you’re never resting. Essentially, between each lunge, you’re almost performing a single-leg squat. All you need to do is start with a forward lunge by stepping forward, but then, instead of going back to standing, bring your trailing leg up and in front of you, simultaneously performing the next lunge.
4. Lateral/Side Lunge
Lateral lunges are perfect for really hitting the glutes as well as improving the flexibility of your hips. Begin in the same position as a normal lunge with your feet together and core engaged. Instead of stepping forward, step to the side, bending your knee as you do so. The other leg should remain straight with the foot in the same place as the start. Push yourself back to standing and then repeat with the opposite leg.
5. Clock Face Lunge
A clock face lunge incorporates the standard lunge, side lunge and reverse lunge all into one for a complete leg workout. The clock face lunge involves lunging forward for 12 and then moving your way around a clock face so that when you hit 3 o’clock you would be doing a side lunge, 6 o’clock would be a reverse lunge, and 9 o’clock would be another side lunge on the opposite side.
6. Curtsy Lunge
Incorporating a lot of skill and balance to pull off correctly, the curtsy lunge places a slight stretch on the glutes and can feel awkward at the start. Nonetheless, it’s a great variation to add into your routine every now and again.
Instead of starting with your feet together, begin with your hips about hip-width apart. Next, take a large step back, crossing one leg behind the other. Bend both knees and lower your body to the floor until your trailing knee is hovering just above the ground at a 90-degree angle. Push off and return to standing before repeating on the other side.
7. Pulse Lunges
If you’re looking for a way to really destroy your lower body, then the pulse lunge is your perfect variation. Instead of returning to standing and completing rep after rep, you simply get into the bottom portion of the squat and ‘pulse’ up and down. This allows for no rest whatsoever for your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes.
8. Tick Tock Lunge
Following in the footsteps of the clock lunge, the tick-tock lunge is a combination of that and the walking lunge. It’s sometimes referred to as a ‘see-saw’ lunge or a ‘rocking’ lunge as well. To perform a tick-tock lunge, instead of returning to standing after completing a forward lunge, you bring the leg all the way behind you to enter straight into a reverse lunge. You can do this for a certain amount of reps or just until one leg is completely worn out.
9. Lunge with Russian Twist
If you want to work your core a little harder, then why not add a twist? Once you hit the bottom portion of the movement, twist to the side of the front leg and back to facing before pushing back up. Repeat on the other side. If you want to make the exercise even harder, you can hold onto a kettlebell or weight of some sort.
10. Skater Lunge
Another high-intensity variation of the squat that’s perfect for boosting your metabolism, raising your heart rate and rapidly burning fat, the skater lunge is based off the movements commonly seen in skating and skiing. If you want the legs of a winter athlete, then the skater lunge is a great way of getting there.
Start in a standing position with your feet slightly parted, in a similar fashion to the curtsy lunge, step one leg diagonally backwards and lower yourself downward until your knee is slightly off the floor. Push up as hard as you can and immediately swap into another lunge with the opposite leg. You can swing your arms by your sides to increase momentum and build power if you need.
11. Bulgarian Split Squat
Now, the split squat isn’t labelled as a lunge, but it’s essentially the same movement and a great way to build up strength in each of your legs. Lunges are perfect for making sure there are no muscular imbalances in your lower body, and there’s no better way to highlight potential differences than with the split squat.
Elevate your back leg on a chair or surface behind you. Your foot should be the only thing touching the surface. Your front leg needs to start slightly in front of your body in the same position you would step into the lunge. From here, lower yourself down and back up repeatedly for a certain amount of repetitions before repeating on the opposite leg.
12. Jumping/Plyometric Lunges
Jumping lunges help to build strength, power and speed across your entire lower body. You can either complete them by jumping back into a standing position or by flying upwards and landing in a squat with your opposite leg.
13. Step-Up/Elevated Lunge
This is the more active version of the Bulgarian split squat that promises to leave your quads on fire. Instead of beginning with your leg already elevated, you step onto a block or higher surface and push up until you’re standing on it. After this, lunge backwards into the starting position. You can also complete reverse elevated lunges for an even bigger challenge.
14. Leg-Lift Lunge
Lunges are not only a good stand-alone exercise, but they can be used to improve your mind muscle connection before bigger exercises such as barbell squats and deadlifts. The leg-lift squat in particular helps to improve your mental connection with your glutes, one of the most powerful muscles in the body. Maintaining a better mental connection with your glutes can help you to lift more weight in your subsequent exercises. All you need to do after completing your regular lunge is to extend your trailing leg upwards by engaging your glutes.
15. Knee-Up Lunge
The knee-up lunge is another good pre-activation exercise, but this time it targets the quadriceps and abdominal muscles. This exercise requires you to do a reverse lunge and as you press forward with your trailing leg, engage your quads at the hip to bring your knee up towards your chest.
16. Mountain Climber Lunge
Similar to the Bulgarian split squat, mountain climbers aren’t necessarily labelled as a lunge despite following the same basic principles. Mountain climbers really get your heart racing whilst hitting your core a lot harder than normal lunges. As well as this, they’re a great way to improve your flexibility and can therefore be used as a warm-up before your main exercises.
Begin in a plank position with your core tight and glutes engaged. Step one leg up so that your ankle is as close to your wrist as possible. As you bring it back down to the starting position, bring your other ankle up to your opposite wrist. You may need to incorporate a bit of a ‘bounce’ to pull this off, but that’ll just mean you burn even more calories. Alternatively, you can slow the pace down and really focus on the deep stretch.
17. Burpee Lunge
Lastly, the burpee lunge uses your whole body and ensures that no muscle is left untouched, stealing different parts of the different lunges listed above.
Start in a standing position before lunging forward with one leg. Next, bring your torso down into the mountain climber stance. Push your front leg back into a plank, then bring the leg back up to your wrist, your torso up, and your body back to standing. Finish with a jump before repeating on the opposite side.