Training your legs and abs with gym machines may get you bigger muscles, but machine-based training won't give you the function, strength, balance and athleticism that you need in many sports and daily activities. Dumbbell lunges can be used as one of several lower-body exercises that improve full-body strength, stability and balance altogether. With a little space, you can firm your legs, butt and abs without even going to the gym.
Enhance Running and Jumping Performance
Athletes who sprint and jump should incorporate dumbbell lunges into their workout. Lunges work primarily on eccentric movement, which is the deceleration of your body while you move, such as when you slow down during a sprint. In a study published in the May 2009 issue of "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," researchers at Stockholm Söder Hospital in Sweden found walking lunges improved significant hamstring strength and jumping lunges improve running speed in soccer players. Perform lunges with just your body weight before adding dumbbells.
Strengthen the Weaker Side
Because your legs move differently during a lunge, you can determine if one side of your body is stronger and more coordinated than the other side. For example, your left quadriceps may be weaker than your right or you can extend your right hip better than your left. Physical therapist Gray Cook recommends that you perform one or two extra sets on the side that is weaker or less coordinated until both sides of your lunge feel relatively even. For example, if you do two sets on your stronger side, do three to four sets on the weaker side.
Find Your Center
Doing dumbbell lunges with proper breathing and form will improve your core strength and stability, which refers to your ability of your abdominal, spine and hip muscles to stabilize and balance your body while you lunge. Keeping your spine in a neutral position in which in retains its natural curve during the lunge can reduce your risk of back pain and injury while strengthening your entire body. Inhale as you lunge down, and exhale as you stand up.
Load It Up
Don't worry about putting your knees into danger if you use heavy dumbbells for the lunges. A heavier load will strengthen your hips, ankles and core without placing excessive load on your knees. A study performed at the Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Georgia, that was published in the July-August 2012 issue of "Journal of Athletic Training" showed that a higher resistance in a lunge placed more mechanical work at the hip and ankle of the front leg, not so much at the knee. As long as you keep your knees behind your toes during the lunge, your workout should be safe to do.
- Harvard Health Blog: Strengthening Your Core: Right and Wrong Ways to Do Lunges, Squats, and Planks
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Forward Lunge: A Training Study of Eccentric Exercises of the Lower Limbs
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; Michael Clark et al.
- Journal of Athletic Training: Biomechanical Analysis of the Anterior Lunge During 4 External-Load Conditions
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook