While walking lunges aren't the most glamorous exercise to perform, they're excellent for strengthening and shaping the legs. Not only will you improve the look of your legs with walking lunges, you'll also firm your lower body muscles, which in turn can improve your speed and athletic performance. Walking lunges can be performed in your local gym or in the comfort of your own home. Adding weights can increase the intensity of the exercise, but this isn't absolutely necessary to see results.
Walking lunges engage several muscles in the lower body and, when done properly, they can also tighten and strengthen your core muscles. In the first movement of the walking lunge, you target the muscles of the glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps when you move your leg forward. The leg that trails doesn't engage as many muscles, but it is used for stability and balance. The trailing leg becomes the forward moving leg during the second movement of the walking lunge. This engages the quads, hamstrings and glutes of that leg as well. Each leg is alternately engaged, making the walking lunge a more intense workout for maximum hip and thigh development compared to a standard lunge, according to Muscle and Fitness.
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It's important to keep the core tight and upright during the walking lunge exercise. The knee of the leg you lead with should always point in the same direction as the foot during and throughout the lunges. The thigh of the forward leg should be parallel to the ground during the lunge. Lower the body by flexing the hip and knee of the front leg until the back leg's knee is just about in contact with the ground and the leg's heel is pointed towards the ceiling. Push your trailing leg off the floor and step the foot up to meet the forward leg's foot. Repeat the lunge by moving forward the leg that was previously trailing. This is one rep. Keep alternating legs in a walking motion to get an even workout. To engage the glutes more, take bigger steps. To focus more on your quads, use shorter lunges during the exercise.
To increase the intensity of the workout, add weight to the walking lunge. You can use dumbbells or you can add weight with a barbell on your back. The barbell is better suited for those who are advanced athletes. For those just starting out, hold a dumbbell in each hand while keeping both arms down at your sides. Simply perform the walking lunge exercise while holding the weights in your hands.
The American Council on Exercise offers a variation for the walking lunges by adding a torso twist. This can be done with or without a medicine ball. Perform your first lunge while holding the medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Hold your lunge position and focus your body weight on the forward leg. While in this lunge position, lean forward slightly at your hips, stabilize your spine and twist your torso to the side opposite of your forward leg. Twist back to center; bring your back leg forward so that you are standing tall with the medicine ball out in front of your chest. Perform the lunge on the other leg and twist to the opposite side to work both legs evenly.
If you have knee injuries or experience pain in any of your joints while performing the walking lunges, stop the exercise and consult your doctor. It's important to first become proficient with the walking lunge before adding weight. As you advance slowly, add weight and variations to the walking lunge exercise.