This 20-Minute Lunge Workout Will Get Your Heart Pumping and Legs Burning

As you grow comfortable with this lunge workout, you can add a pair of dumbbells to make the moves harder.
Image Credit: Prostock-Studio/iStock/GettyImages

There's beauty in simplicity, especially where your leg workouts are concerned. While training plans full of elaborate exercises can be fun, all you really need is one type of exercise to get a great lower-body burn.

And this all-lunge workout is proof of that. Built by New York-based certified personal trainer Carolina Araujo, CPT, this two-circuit routine will get your heart racing and your legs burning in just 20 minutes.

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Each circuit contains three lunge exercises. Do 10 reps of each move, then repeat the circuit for three rounds. Once you catch your breath, do it all over with the second circuit.

All you need to get started is a pair of light dumbbells (about 10 to 12 pounds), she says. To modify this workout, you can do all the exercises with just your body weight. Trust us, you'll still feel it plenty!

​​Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here – we've got something for everyone.

Circuit 1

Move 1: Stationary Lunge

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Skill Level Intermediate
Sets 3
Reps 10
  1. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart with a pair of dumbbells in hand.
  2. Step back several feet with your right leg, rooting your left heel to the ground.
  3. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees. At the same time, lower your right knee to hover just above the ground, bending to 90 degrees.
  4. Press through your left heel and straighten your left leg. Simultaneously straighten your right knee. That's one rep.
  5. After you finish your reps on this leg, switch sides.

In case you're wondering, yes, a stationary lunge is the same thing as a split squat. Whatever you call it, it's fabulous for building your thighs and glutes, says Winnie Yu, DPT, CPT, a certified personal trainer and physical therapist at Bespoke treatments.

Move 2: Pulse Lunge

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Skill Level Intermediate
Sets 3
Reps 10
  1. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Step back several feet with your right leg, rooting your left heel to the ground.
  3. Bend your left knee to 90 degrees. At the same time, lower your right knee to hover just above the ground, bending to 90 degrees.
  4. Press through your left heel and straighten your knees halfway.
  5. Then return to the bottom of the lunge. That's one rep.
  6. After you finish all your reps on this leg, switch sides.

Tip

For each pulse, focus on pressing through your heel. This will help activate your glutes, Araujo says.

Move 3: Reverse Lunge to Knee Drive

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Skill Level Intermediate
Sets 3
Reps 10
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Shift your weight into your right leg and step your left leg back a few feet.
  3. Lower the left knee toward the ground and bend the right knee to 90 degrees, keeping your chest up.
  4. Push off your right heel and stand, driving your left knee up toward your chest.
  5. Then, step the left foot back down behind you into another lunge and repeat.
  6. Complete all your reps on this side before switching legs.

Tip

If you want to add a cardio kick to this exercise, jump off the ground as you drive your knee up, using your arms for extra momentum.

Circuit 2

Move 1: Bulgarian Split Squat

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Skill Level Intermediate
Sets 3
Reps 10
  1. Stand about three feet in front of a workout bench or chair, facing away from it.
  2. Hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand.
  3. Keeping your right foot rooted on the floor, lift your left foot up onto the bench, toes tucked under.
  4. With shoulders and hips squared forward, place the weight of your body mainly in your right heel.
  5. Bend the right knee to a 90-degree angle. Simultaneously bend the left knee and lower toward the ground.
  6. Press into your right heel and straighten your front leg to return to standing.

Tip

This lunge variation is sometimes called a split squat because it's more or less a one-legged squat. As you do each rep, focus on keeping your upper body tall and avoid rounding your back, Araujo says.

Move 2: Reverse Lunge

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Skill Level Intermediate
Sets 3
Reps 10
  1. Start standing with your feet together holding a set of dumbbells.
  2. Take a large step back with your left leg.
  3. Lower down into a lunge until both knees are bent at 90 degrees. Your left knee should be close to the floor but not touching it.
  4. Press through your right heel as you step your left foot forward to return to standing.
  5. Repeat this motion for 12 reps on each leg.

Move 3: Step-Up

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Skill Level Intermediate
Sets 3
Reps 10
  1. Stand tall in front of a bench, chair or plyo box holding a pair of dumbbells.
  2. Step your right foot up onto the bench and use your right leg and glutes to step up onto the seat.
  3. Tap the seat lightly with your left toes and step back down.
  4. Repeat all your reps on the right side, then switch legs.

Tip

Take a lunge, add some elevation and you've got yourself a step-up. A big step-up mistake is picking a box that's too high, Yu says. You should be able to do all your reps with good form, so if you find your knees moving side to side, pick a lower step.

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