How to Do a Lunge With Elbow to Instep

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Lunge Work Out
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Also Known As: Runner's lunge

Targets: Groin, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, lower legs, transverse abdominis

Equipment Needed: None

Level: Intermediate

The forward lunge with elbow to instep is an exercise that helps to warm up the body, increases flexibility, improves stability, and builds strength. The exercise is sometimes included in dynamic warm-ups for sports such as golf, basketball, volleyball, football, and other activities that require total body strength, flexibility, and coordination.

The elbow to instep lunge does not require any equipment. Your body weight provides resistance. There are numerous variations to the exercise, but you won't need barbells, dumbbells, bands, or any other accessories for any of them. However, you should have at least an intermediate level of fitness for this exercise. Even the modified version is fairly complex and requires you to have a moderate level of strength and flexibility.


When you do an instep lunge, you challenge your lower body strength and flexibility. But in order to remain stable, your core needs to be engaged, so the transverse abdominus (deep muscle in the abdomen) is also working. This lunge variation is a great one to include in your routine simply because it accomplishes so much with one movement.

Improves Dynamic Flexibility

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), dynamic flexibility exercises use slow and controlled movements that are designed to increase core temperature and enhance activity-related flexibility and balance. These active and efficient movements improve strength, flexibility, and stability while increasing your heart rate and warming the muscles.

Often, dynamic flexibility exercises are sport-specific. For example, many runners do high knees or butt kicks before a speed workout. But the instep lunge is a more versatile and dynamic flexibility movement that is applicable to a range of different sporting activities. When you perform the forward lunge with instep you increase the range of motion through the hip joint, gain strength through the quadriceps, hamstrings and lower leg, and improve core stability. The exercise also requires you to coordinate and maintain balance which enhances stability.

Provides Better Preparation for Sport

Researchers have compared dynamic flexibility exercises to other forms of flexibility training, such as static stretching, ballistic stretching, and a type of flexibility training called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Static stretching involves holding a stretch for up to a minute, ballistic stretching involves bouncing motion to increase a stretch, and PNF usually requires a partner or trainer who guides you through a muscular contract and release pattern to improve range of motion.

While there are established benefits to a pre-workout warm-up, not all of these stretching methods are safe or appropriate before you exercise or participate in sports. While each type of stretching can have a place in a comprehensive training program, research has shown that dynamic stretching is more effective and safer before and exercise provides the greatest benefit for athletic performance.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Before you try this or any exercise, you should be in good health. Always seek the guidance of your healthcare provider if you are new to exercise or if you are coming back to exercise after an injury. You can also work with a qualified fitness trainer to get form tips and exercise advice.

To prepare for the exercise, make sure you have several feet of clear space in front of you.

  1. Stand tall with feet hip-distance apart and abdominals engaged.
  2. Step the right foot forward into a low lunge position. The left leg remains straight behind you with the heel off the floor. Engage your glutes to keep the hips from drooping or sagging to one side.
  3. Continue the movement by tilting your torso forward and down, making sure the back stays long and strong. Your lunge will deepen.
  4. Place the left hand on the floor outside the left foot for support, bring the right shoulder inside the right knee and reach the right elbow down to the floor so that it rests near the instep of your right foot.
  5. To reverse the movement, bring the right hand to the floor on the outside of the right foot and bring the torso upright.
  6. Push off the floor with the right foot using enough power to propel your body back to the starting position. Bring the feet together.
  7. Repeat on the left side.

When you are first learning the instep you may notice that your elbow doesn't get close to the floor or your instep. That's okay. With practice, your flexibility will increase and you'll be able to find a deeper stretch with a lower elbow.

Common Mistakes

There are a few common blunders to look for when doing the forward lunge with instep exercise.

Slumped Back

When you first learn this exercise, it is very easy to round your back and slump through the spine, especially as you try to bring your elbow towards the instep. It might be helpful to watch your form in a mirror. If your back takes on a C shape, try to press the rib cage forward so the back lengthens and straightens a bit. It's more important to maintain spinal integrity than it is to get the elbow to the floor.

Knee Too Far Forward

Another common error when performing this or any forward lunge exercise is to press the knee too far forward. The lower your body goes, the more likely your knee is to extend forward. If you notice that your kneecap extends past the toes, step the foot further out in front or pull your weight back so that you have a 90-degree bend at the knee.

Lunge Is Too Short

If you don't do a lot of lunges, it may be tempting to shorten your lunge, by taking just a small step forward. It's easier on your legs. But in order to get the torso forward, the elbow near the instep, and your supporting hand to the floor, you need to take a big step forward.

Sagging Hips

Even though much of the movement is in the upper body, the lower body (particularly the leg that is extended behind you) provides support and stability. Tighten the glutes, engage the hamstrings, and make sure the hips don't droop or sag. Everything from the back heel to the front shoulder should stay in a long, strong line. The back knee should stay off the floor.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

For many people, a reverse lunge is easier than a forward lunge. If you have a hard time maintaining control or balance with a forward lunge, try this same movement using a reverse lunge which affords a little more stability moving in and out of the lunge.

Reverse Lunge with Instep

  1. Stand tall with feet hip-distance apart and abdominals engaged.
  2. Step the right foot behind you into a low lunge position. The left leg bends while the right leg extends back keeping the right heel off the floor. Engage your glutes to keep the hips from sagging.
  3. Continue the movement by tilting your torso forward and down, making sure the back stays long and strong.
  4. Place the right hand on the floor for support, bring the left shoulder inside the left knee and reach the left elbow down to the floor so that it rests near the instep of your left foot.
  5. To reverse the movement, place both hands on the floor and shift your weight onto the front (left) foot and bring the right foot in to meet the left.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Another option is to do this stretch in a modified tabletop position. With the hands and knees on the floor, step the right foot forward, but keep the back (left) knee on the ground. Tilt the upper body forward to get a stretch and then switch sides.

Up for a Challenge?

There are several variations to the instep lunge. Once you've mastered the basic move, give one of these challenges a try. You can also combine variations. For example, you can add both a rotation and a hamstring stretch to your forward lunge with instep or even add a rotation, a hamstring stretch, and an upright lunge for an even greater challenge.

Forward Lunge with Knee to Instep and Rotation

This variation adds a torso rotation after the elbow reaches to the instep. You'll increase flexibility through the torso and engage the obliques if you take on this challenge.

You will add the rotation on the right side after the right elbow has reached down to your instep. From this low position, bring the right elbow up and out to your right side, rotating the entire torso to the right. Once you are fully rotated with the chest facing right, extend the arm up towards the ceiling. Keep the palm facing out to the side, shoulders down away from your ears and your neck long.

To reverse, bring the right hand down and place it on the floor outside the right foot for support. Push off of the right leg with enough power to propel your body back to the starting position.

Standing Lunge with Knee to Instep

This variation adds a standing (upright) lunge after the elbow-to-instep maneuver. To add this challenge, after your right elbow has reached for the right instep, place both hands on your hips and lift the torso upright, maintaining a lunge position. The back knee will need to bend to accommodate this movement (so both the front and back legs will be bent). Shoulders and chest are upright over the hips.

To reverse, tilt the torso forward again and place both hands on the floor for support. Push off the front leg to bring your feet together at the starting position.

Lunge with Knee to Instep and Hamstring Stretch

This variation adds a challenging hamstring stretch after you reach for your instep.

To do this variation on the right side, after the right elbow has reached for the right instep, simply place both hands on the floor and straighten the right leg as much as possible. Keep the torso down and close to the right leg. You may need to pull the back (left) foot in slightly. In this position, your entire lower body forms the shape of a V. You'll feel a stretch in both hamstrings, but likely more so in the front leg. Try to keep the right hip from floating forward. Pulling the right hip back in line with the left deepens the stretch.

After the stretch, rebend the right (front leg) and extend the left leg back so that you are back in your low lunge with both hands on the floor. Push off the right foot and propel your body back so that feet are together in the starting position.

Walking Lunge With Elbow to Instep

Instead of a stationary forward lunge, this variation uses a walking lunge so that your body moves forward in space with each repetition. You'll need more space for this variation.

To take on this challenge, complete a basic lunge with elbow to instep as directed in the step-by-step instructions. But instead of stepping the right foot back at the end to bring the feet together, you take a giant step forward with the left leg placing it into a low lunge on the other side. Complete the elbow-to-instep stretch on the left. After completing the entire sequence on the left, take a giant step the right foot forward into a low lunge and continue.

Plank Lunge With Elbow to Instep

This variation adds a core challenge, but it does not utilize a forward lunge so the legs get a bit of a break.

To do this exercise, start in a plank position with arms extended beneath the shoulders and hands on the floor. Keeping the body low, bring the right leg forward and place the right foot on the outside of the right hand. You are now in a low lunge position. Drop the right elbow down to the right instep. Bring the right hand back to the floor. Return the right foot back to plank position and repeat on the left side.

Safety and Precautions

This is not the exercise to try if you have a quadriceps or hamstring injury. Also, those with knee problems may find a forward lunge uncomfortable. Be sure to maintain good form and keep the knee over the ankle in the forward lunge position. You may also find the reverse lunge more comfortable if you have knee problems. Speak with your physical therapist for personalized advice.

Try It Out

Incorporate a tuck exercise into one of these bodyweight workouts.

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2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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