7 Of The Best Curtsy Lunge Alternatives

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Curtsy lunges can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to curtsy lunges with similar benefits?

Curtsy lunges are a popular lunge variation where you move one leg back and to the other side.

Some of the curtsy lunge benefits include strengthening the standard lunge leg muscles, strengthening your inner and outer thighs more, they are an exercise you can do at home, they improve balance and coordination, etc.

Whether you don’t enjoy curtsy lunges, you want a more knee-friendly alternative, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to curtsy lunges can offer you some or all of the same benefits.

Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like any exercise, there is always some risk of injury. Implement a good technique to keep your injury risk low. When in doubt talk to an expert.

1. Reverse lunges

To do a reverse lunge take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less hip width.
  2. Take a big step backward so that you get into a position where both of your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Your front foot should be flat on the ground and your back foot should only touch the ground with the ball of the foot (front).
  3. Move your back foot forward to get back into the previous position. Make sure you use your front leg muscles to move upward and not the momentum of your back foot.
  4. Repeat the same movement with your other leg backward.

Similar to regular curtsy lunges, reverse lunges help you avoid using momentum to raise your body. This can make the exercise harder for your muscles and in turn, lead to more muscle growth faster.

One downside of reverse lunges vs curtsy lunges is that this alternative does not give the same outer/inner thigh muscle focus. On the other hand, reverse lunges will likely be easier on your knees.

How to do a reverse lunge

2. VMO dips

For this next exercise, you want a platform that is slightly elevated, even something like 6 inches (15 cm) works, above the floor. An example of a suited object is a low stepper.

Once you have that to do VMO dips take the following steps:

  1. Stand straight up on the edge of the platform, feet full on it, with your toes facing the lower surface.
  2. Move one foot forward so that it hovers over the edge.
  3. Fold the knee of your support leg in a controlled motion until the heel of the other foot touches the lower surface.
  4. Slowly stretch your support leg again.
  5. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other leg as the support leg.

The vastus medialis oblique (VMO) is one of your four quadriceps (front upper leg) muscles. If your knee hurts when doing exercises like curtsy lunges it is possible this particular muscle is not yet strong enough.

This is where VMO dips can help you strengthen the VMO muscle so that over time you can go to curtsy lunges and other effective leg exercises that require knee folding.

3. Skater exercise

For this next curtsy lunge alternative, you want to make sure you warm up sufficiently. Even then the skater exercise can be rough on body parts like ankles, knees, hips, and back. To do a skater exercise take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width.
  2. Swing one leg sideways and jump to that side. To start with the actual exercise this first jump can be slightly smaller. How you want to land depends on what body parts you want to absorb the shock. You generally want to at least fold your leg slightly so your knees don’t absorb all the weight.
  3. Land on the outer leg and let the inner leg continue behind the main support leg and touch the ground with the front of your foot for balance.
  4. Lower your body by bending the knee of the foot that is fully on the ground. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
  5. Push your body up and sideways, mainly with the help of the leg that is bent.
  6. Repeat the movements in steps 3, 4, and 5 but this time your other leg will be the main support and driver of the jump.

You can basically describe the skater exercise as a jumping curtsy lunge. The way you train your muscles influences what fitness component you improve.

The muscles used in curtsy lunges at a slower pace will be trained in either muscle endurance or muscle strength.

If you want to work on your muscle power fitness component in similar muscles the skater exercise can be a good alternative.

How to do a skater exercise

4. Weighted leg abductions and adductions

Leg abductions and adductions are different curtsy lunges alternatives with a different focus but how you do them is very similar.

For the below walkthrough you preferably have something to hold for balance for example a chair and a resistance band.

Once you have that, take the following steps to do a standing resistance band leg abduction:

  1. Loop a resistance band around your legs at the height of your desired resistance. The closer to your hips the easier the exercise. If you are not sure you can start high and go lower gradually as you get stronger.
  2. Stand up next to your balance object and hold it.
  3. Shift your weight on one leg so that the foot of the other side hovers in the air.
  4. Slowly move the leg in the air sideways as far as comfortable without moving your hips.
  5. Move the leg back to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
  6. Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other leg.

Leg abductions, moving your leg outward, engage your outer thigh muscles. Leg adductions, moving your leg inward, engage your outer thigh muscles.

Curtsy lunges stand out from typical exercises because they engage these muscles.

Both exercises are preferably done with resistance like resistance bands, a cable machine, or ankle weights.

How to do a resistance band leg abduction

5. Single leg balance board

Balance boards are a piece of fitness equipment that can be described as an unbalanced surface. You can use it in a wide variety of exercises if you are interested in a curtsy lunge alternative that is mostly focused on improving balance.

If you are interested in building a lot of muscle, balance boards are generally not the best piece of fitness tool.

A simple exercise you can do is standing on one leg on the balance board. The goal is to stand on the balance board without having the edges touch the ground.

By focusing your eyes on a static object and using your arms, balancing can become easier.

Make sure you can stand on one leg on the regular ground before trying out this exercise. When first trying out this exercise you may want to hold something for balance.

Balance board 1 leg balance exercise gif

6. Squats

Squats are one of the, if not the most, popular leg exercises, and for a good reason. They are great for building leg muscle and make a great alternative to curtsy lunges for training your main leg muscles.

To do a squat take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
  2. Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
  3. Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs.

One potential downside of squats is that more experienced exercisers need external weights like dumbbells, a weighted vest, a barbell, etc. to make this exercise more challenging.

With an exercise like curtsy lunges where your body weight rests on a single leg, this is less necessary. You will also not engage your inner/outer thighs and balance and coordination to the same extent as curtsy lunges.

How to do a bodyweight squat

7. Lying lateral leg raises

For the lying lateral leg raise it can be helpful to invest in something like a yoga mat if you have no other soft surface to do the exercise on. To do a lying lateral leg raise take the following steps:

  1. Start lying down on your side with your body in more or less one straight line, adjust for stability.
  2. Raise one leg upward until it is at about a 45-degree angle to the ground. Keep the foot of this leg pointing horizontally.
  3. Lower this leg back into the position of step 1 in a controlled motion.
  4. Repeat the same number of repetitions with the other leg.

You can stick to the bodyweight version but doing lying lateral leg raises with the extra resistance from ankle weights, loop resistance bands, or a cable machine will likely allow you to build more muscle faster.

This version of lying lateral leg raises targets your outer thigh muscles. You can also target your inner thigh muscles by raising the bottom leg. Both can be a good curtsy lunge alternative depending on your fitness goals.

How to do a side leg raise
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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.