As effective as meat-and potatoes barbell moves such as squats and deadlifts are for beefing up your lower half, there are many great lunging variations that you can employ to assist in building bulk and strength— and you’d be wise to do so.
For one, a 2017 study published in the BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation showed that split squats (which are almost identical to lunges) were more effective for loading the quads—specifically the rectus femoris, which gives your quads that teardrop shape—compared with good mornings and deadlifts. And since lunges call for less of a load, they’re typically easier on your knee and hip joints.
On the following pages, we outline six lunge variations for you to try. Add in a couple at the start of your workout to warm up or sprinkle any of them in the middle of your lower-body routine.
WHY DO IT: “Even though it’s primarily used to work the legs, the front rack lunge is a real ab killer,” says Jim Ryno, owner of Iron House Gym in Alpine, NJ (iron-house.co). “Because of the front rack position, this move requires more work from your core to maintain a vertical torso throughout the exercise.”
DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding two kettlebells in the front rack position. Take a large step back with one leg into a reverse lunge, keeping the kettlebells at chest height throughout. Touch your back knee to the floor, then push through the heel of the front foot to reverse the movement and return to the standing position. Repeat with the opposite le