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Walking Lunges: How To Do, Benefits,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing walking lunges, what will the effects be?

Walking lunges are a lunge exercise variation where you do multiple lunges forward instead of going back after each lunge.

Doing this can make lunges engage your glute (butt) muscles more and allows you to do more repetitions in a shorter amount of time. However, don’t overdo it with speed to keep the focus on building muscle.

Both variations are good for building leg muscle strength and endurance. In turn, this makes walking lunges also good for fitness goals like losing weight, longevity, and athletic performance.

Whether you should add walking lunges or alternatives to your routine depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, and training goals.

How to do walking lunges

For this exercise you need a flat surface with enough room to do a few repetitions. Once you have that, to do two walking lunges take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width apart or wider for better balance.
  2. Take a big step forward so you can achieve the desired knee angles in the next step. Your back foot only touches the ground with its front part.
  3. Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want both of your knees at 90-degree angles. You can use your arms for balance if needed.
  4. Move the back leg forward while pushing your hips upward with the help of the muscles from the front leg.
  5. You can either return to the same stance as step 1 with your feet right next to each other or take the next big step.
  6. Repeat the same movement but with your other leg first.

Make sure you do the same number of repetitions with each leg first to avoid any muscle imbalances.

When doing walking lunges you generally want your front knee to stay behind the toes of your front foot. Other attention points include keeping your back straight and achieving the right angles in your knees.

If you struggle with balance during walking lunges you can put your feet farther apart horizontally speaking.

How to do walking lunges

Walking lunge variations and build-up exercises

The walking lunge done with just your body weight and the full 90-degree angles is the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few walking lunge variations, modifications, and build-up exercises that can make the exercise easier or harder, focus on slightly different things, or help you work toward a full walking lunge.

Easier varations and build-up exercises

Some people are not ready yet for a full walking lunge. You can also do other build-up exercises. The first example is a VMO dip. This is where you stand on the edge of an elevated platform with one foot in the air. You then bend the knee of the support leg just a small amount and raise yourself back up.

The vastus medialis oblique is a muscle that plays a role in knee health. If you can’t do walking lunges because your knees hurt, strengthening this muscle with VMO dips may help you resolve this issue.

Another reason why individuals can not do walking lunges (yet) is that their quadriceps, glutes, and other muscles are not yet strong enough to lift their full body weight.

If this is the case you can start with bodyweight squats. In this exercise, each of your legs only carries half the amount of weight compared to a walking lunge. Once your muscles are strong enough you can then switch to walking lunges which are more challenging.

Another option is to lower your body only a small amount instead of going for the full 90-degree angles. All of these will help you train similar muscles but at a less challenging level.

Different variations

Walking lunges are an exercise where your legs are doing most of the work. Your upper body is free to do other motions that can improve other areas of your physical health.

Some examples include doing a bicep curl, torso twist, shoulder press, etc. in between each walking lunge. Some of these walking lunge modifications may align more with your fitness goals.

Harder variations

If you are more experienced with leg resistance training, bodyweight walking lunges may be too easy to build a lot of extra muscle mass fast. At this point, you need to turn to other leg exercises or make walking lunges harder to keep growing your leg muscles a lot.

Making walking lunges harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up muscle growth compared to doing the bodyweight variation over and over.

The main way to do this is to do weighted lunges. This is basically doing the same exercise but with extra weights or resistance to make it harder.

The best way to do this is with free weights, preferably no-handed or one-handed weights. Some examples of these are a weighted vest, dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, grocery bags, etc.

The reason for this is that walking lunges do require some balance to do successfully. With these types of weights, you can still use your arms for balance if needed. That being said, you can definitely also use two-handed weights like a barbell for walking lunges.

You can also do bodyweight walking lunges faster but this is to make it more of a cardio workout. If that is your goal something like running or cycling may be a better choice.

Muscles worked with walking lunges

With any exercise you will almost always make a variety of different muscles work, especially with a compound leg exercise like walking lunges. Even so, there are a few muscles that will have to work the hardest for moving and keeping your body in position.

Walking lunges mainly work your quadriceps, glutes, and calves. Your hamstrings, core, hip flexors, hip abductors (outer thighs), and hip adductors (inner thighs) have to work a decent amount too.

If you hold weights like dumbbells in your hands, grip, trapezius, and shoulder muscles will have to work too.

Compared to regular lunges, walking lunges will make your glutes go through a slightly larger range of motion. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth.

The way you build muscle in places like your legs is by engaging these muscles so that they get damaged enough.

This may sound counterintuitive but this damaging makes it so your body repairs these muscles, and adds a bit more to be better prepared to exert similar efforts in the future.

If you stick to exercises with the same weight, as your muscles become stronger this same effort may not damage your muscles enough to promote extra muscle growth.

By adding extra resistance to exercises like walking lunges you are better able to damage the muscles in a shorter amount of time.

If you don’t overdo it, give your body enough nutrients, and give your muscles enough rest this can in turn lead to faster and more leg muscle gains.

Benefits of walking lunges

Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding walking lunges to your routine can offer you some amazing benefits.

While walking lunges change the exercise slightly, most of their benefits are similar to regular lunges. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Walking lunges are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your leg muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing walking lunges likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories, especially the big muscles in your legs. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like walking lunges promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. Helps you avoid muscle asymmetries: By putting your whole weight on one leg at a time you reduce the risk of using one leg more than the other like in certain other exercises. This can help you avoid muscle asymmetries.
  5. Balance and coordination: Balance and coordination are fitness skills that can be improved by challenging them. Walking lunges can help you with this.
  6. Slows down aging: Walking lunges won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
  7. Improves sleep: Exercise like walking lunges can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.

While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than walking lunges, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that walking lunges can be hard on body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any knee pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before implementing more walking lunges.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that walking lunges are not (yet) for you.

Walking lunge alternatives

While walking lunges can definitely be a great addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your leg muscles. Some of these walking lunge alternatives include:

  • Step-ups
  • Squats
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Hip thrusts
  • Deadlifts
  • Single-leg press

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.

Conclusion

Most people will benefit a lot from adding walking lunges with the right technique to their routine. They can be a great exercise option to strengthen and grow a variety of important leg muscles. Make sure you don’t do walking lunges too fast if that is your goal.

The main thing to keep in mind is that walking lunges can be hard on body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any knee pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more walking lunges.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing walking lunges is a workout you love, great. If not, other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more walking lunges make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.

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Matt Claes

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.