What Muscles Do Lunges Target?

When doing lunges or reverse lunges, the muscles worked are primarily the quadriceps and gluteus maximus, although many other leg and core muscles are also activated. Lunges don't require any equipment, and you can perform them anywhere.

Lunges work mostly the quads and glutes.
Credit: bobakphoto/iStock/GettyImages

Tips

The primary muscles targeted when you do lunges include the quadriceps in your thighs and the glutes in your hips and butt. The hamstring and calf muscles in your legs, your abdominal muscles and your back muscles act as stabilizers during this exercise.

Read more: The Benefits of Lunges

Reverse Lunges: Muscles Worked

The two main types of lunges you commonly see are the forward lunge and the reverse lunge. In the forward lunge, you lift one leg and step forward, landing on the heel first. Then, lower your body until the knee of the rear leg nearly touches the floor. Return to the original position and repeat on the other leg. With a reverse lunge, you step backward before lowering into the lunge.

Read more: Reverse Lunge vs. Forward Lunge

Lunges primarily target the quadriceps, advises ExRx.net. Other synergistic muscles that assist in the movement include the gluteus maximus in your butt, the adductor magnus muscle in your hip and the soleus muscle in your calf. By stepping out further and doing long lunges or reverse lunges, the muscles worked shift from primarily targeting the quadriceps to targeting the gluteus maximus.

Several stabilizer muscles are also activated during the lunge to maintain your posture and stabilize your joints. These include the gluteus medius and minimus in your butt, hamstrings in the back of the thigh, the gastrocnemius, the large muscle in the calf and the tibialis anterior in the front of the calf. The obliques and the quadratus lumborum in your core also act as stabilizers.

Tips

If bodyweight lunges are not challenging enough, increase the intensity by adding weight. You can use barbell or dumbbells to increase resistance. Try adding lunge variations such as the side lunge, diagonal lunge or walking lunges.

Lunges and Mobility

When performing a lunge, you should be able to maintain your balance during the exercise. There should be very little movement in your lower spine, and the back knee should nearly touch the ground. If you aren't able to perform a lunge with the proper form, it may indicate a lack of mobility or muscle weakness.

For example, if you can't lower the rear knee to nearly touching the floor, you may have tight or weak adductor muscles in the hip, advises ExRx.net. If you are doing a short lunge with the front and back feet closer together, and your front heel comes off the floor during the lunge, you may have tightness in the soleus muscle.

Recognizing tight and weak muscles allows you to stretch and strengthen them so that you can perform lunges with proper form. Using incorrect form when exercising may cause injury to your muscles and joints.

Warning

If you experience pain while doing lunges, stop immediately and make sure your form is correct. You can also try squats instead of lunges to relieve pressure on your knee. If the pain continues, consult your doctor.

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