How to Do a Standing Lunge

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Also Known As: Reverse lunge, backward lunge

Targets: All the major lower-body muscles (calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteals)

Level: Beginner

Done properly, the standing lunge provides an easy and effective stretch for the hip flexors—the muscles that bring the torso and leg closer together. You can do it almost anywhere, anytime. It's a good warm-up to do as you wait for an exercise class to start, for example. And it doesn't require any equipment.

Benefits

The standing lunge is useful as a warm-up or cool-down exercise. It also helps stretch tight hip flexors, which many have from sitting too much, running, or cycling. Lunges work all of your lower-body muscles. Because you need to maintain balance, standing lunges also challenge and strengthen your core and lower-back muscles.

Starting the morning with some calisthenics
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Step-by Step Instructions

  1. Stand with your legs parallel. Take a good posture with your tailbone pointing toward the floor, the top of your head reaching for the sky, and your shoulders relaxed.
  2. Bend your right knee and step your left leg straight back onto the ball of your foot. Go as far as you are comfortable, but don't let your right knee bend past your toes. Keep your hips even. Think of your hip bones as headlights that have to point forward. Your chest is open and your gaze is straight ahead.
  3. Rest your hands gently above your right knee for stability (do not press on your knee).
  4. Straighten your back leg, but don't lock your knee. Let the lift come from the hamstring (back of the leg). Increase the stretch if you feel steady.
  5. Keep your lower ribs and hip bones in the same plane and pull up through the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to bring the pelvis up and back, opening the front of the hip joint. This is a small but powerful move where the torso shifts with the pelvis; it's not a backbend.
  6. Use your abs to scoop your tailbone between your legs. This will help protect your lower back.
  1. Hold the stretch about 30 seconds as you breathe deeply.
  2. Release the stretch by supporting some weight on your hands and stepping the left foot forward to parallel legs position.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

Common Mistakes

Pay attention to your form to get the most out of your stretch and avoid injury.

Bending Your Knee Too Far

Your bent leg should not exceed 90 degrees. When you look down at your knee, you should see your toes; keep your ankle and knee in a straight line.

Letting One Hip Sag

As you bend your front knee and seek to increase the hip stretch, sometimes the hip on the opposite side sags down toward the floor. Keep hip bones parallel and pointing forward.

Bending Your Back Too Soon

It's fine to bend your back once you are established in the lunge position, but it can be tempting to try it too soon. Don't go into a backbend until you have shifted the hip bones up and back as far as you can comfortable go.

Modifications and Variations

Adjust your standing lunge to make it easier or harder, depending on what your body needs.

Need a Modification?

If you find stepping backward to be too big of a challenge to your balance, stand alongside a chair or wall and steady yourself with your right hand (when bending your right knee).

You can also limit your range of motion in the lunge: Don't bend your knee to 90 degrees. Stop at whatever angle is comfortable to you.

Up for a Challenge?

Do the lunge as described. Once you feel the stretch in your hip, increase the dynamic of the whole stretch by raising your arms. Let your shoulder blades slide down your back as you reach overhead. You might shift back a little, but don't let your ribs pop forward. The focus of the stretch is still through the center and the front of the hip. Be sure to keep your legs parallel and your hips and shoulders even.

This stretch is similar to Warrior 1 pose in yoga, except the legs stay parallel. In Warrior 1, the back leg turns out and the heel goes down.

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For a different challenge, you can incorporate dumbbells in your lunge stretches, or turn them into jump lunges.

Safety and Precautions

If you have a knee injury or other condition affecting this joint, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about whether the standing lunge is a good stretch for you. You might need to stretch your hip flexor in other ways.

Whether or not you have any injuries, never stretch to the point of pain. You should feel the stretch, but not force it to a degree where it hurts.

If you have any balance issues or you are in the third trimester of pregnancy, do the standing lunge next to a wall or sturdy chair so you can steady yourself.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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