When it comes to versatility, you can't beat lunges. You can target various muscles with different types of exercise, making them as easy or difficult as you prefer. Lunges target most, if not all, of the major muscles of your legs and hips with lunges including the biggest muscle, the glutes.
While you can't change your body shape, you can work the muscles to build them up. Lunges can help, as long as you create variety to hit all angles of the muscles.
Your glutes are split into three muscles, the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius,and minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful of the muscle group, followed by the medius and minimus.
The maximus extends your leg back and turns your leg out to the side, or externally. The gluteus medius and minimus partially oppose the maximus. They turn the leg inward instead of outward. They also raise the leg straight to the side, called abduction.
A lunge is basically a big step either forward, backward or to the side. You can do them holding weights or just using your bodyweight. Whatever style of lunge you choose, you'll be working your glutes to some degree. Some varieties, though, work the tush muscles harder than others.
You can hit all of these muscles with different types of lunges to create your ideal rounded butt. With walking lunges you're hitting the glute max and gluteus medius because you're pushing back with the lead leg and using your glute medius to balance. The same can be said for reverse lunges because they're almost identical movements.
Lateral lunges target the gluteus minimus and medius even more because you get to extend your leg out to the side, which primarily works those muscles which are on the side of the hip.
Adding weight to any of these lunge variations is easy. You can simply hold dumbbells in your hands or in front of your chest in a goblet position. When you add weight it increases the stress on your glutes, making them grow even faster.
1. Walking Lunge
HOW TO DO IT: Start standing with your feet together. Take a big step forward and drop your back knee down an inch above the ground. Make sure you take a big step, because short steps put a lot of pressure on your knees, according to a study from the Journal of Orthopaedics and Sports Physical Therapy.
Step forward with your back foot, so that your feet are together again. Then, lunge forward with the leg that you stepped up with. Add weight to this exercise by holding dumbbells in each hand.
2. Reverse Lunge
HOW TO DO IT: Start standing with your feet together. Take a big step back with one foot and sink your back knee down, close to the ground. Keep your torso as upright as possible. Step back up to the top and then switch feet. For this exercise, you can either hold a dumbbell up to your chest in goblet position or one dumbbell in each hand.
3. Lateral Lunge
HOW TO DO IT: From standing, take a big step out to the right. Lean to the right and straighten your left leg out. Stick your butt back and put your weight onto the heel of your right foot. Then, step back to the center and step out to the left side, leaning to the left.
Keep alternating between the left and right side until you've done 10 reps on each leg. To add weight, hold a dumbbell either in the goblet position or down in between your legs.
- Washington Department of Radiology: Gluteus Minimus
- Lumen: Gluteus Maximus
- Human Movement Science: Muscle activity during leg strengthening exercise using free weights and elastic resistance: Effects of ballistic vs controlled contractions
- Research Gate: Hip-Muscle Activation During the Lunge, Single-Leg Squat, and Step-Up-and-Over Exercises