How to Do a Lunge With Elbow to Instep: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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When you do an instep lunge, you challenge your lower body's strength and flexibility. Since this exercise doesn't require any equipment, it's your bodyweight that provides the resistance. Include the lunge with elbow to instep in your dynamic pre-exercise warm-up routine.

Also Known As: Lunge with elbow instep, elbow to instep lunge, runner's lunge

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

Level: Intermediate

How to Do a Lunge With Elbow to Instep

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

To prepare for the exercise, make sure you have several feet of clear space in front of you. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart and your abdominal muscles engaged.

  1. Step the right foot forward into a 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.
  2. Tilt your torso forward and down, making sure the back stays long and strong, to deepen the lunge.
  3. Place the left hand on the floor outside the right 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.
  4. Reverse the movement by bringing the right hand to the floor on the outside of the right foot and bringing the torso upright.
  5. Push off the floor with the right foot using enough power to propel your body back to the starting position. Bring the feet together.
  6. 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, you will increase your flexibility and be able to find a deeper stretch with a lower elbow.

Benefits of the Lunge With Elbow to Instep

The lunge with elbow to instep stretches the groin, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, and lower legs—known collectively as the posterior chain. To remain stable, your core needs to be engaged as well, so the transverse abdominus (a deep muscle in the abdomen) is also working.

The exercise is sometimes included in dynamic warm-ups for sports and other physical activities. Dynamic flexibility exercises help increase core temperature and enhance activity-related flexibility and balance.

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 exercise while also providing the greatest benefit for athletic performance.

Research has found that athletic training programs which include the lunge with elbow to instep may help prevent injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during landing movements, such as when playing basketball or volleyball.

This lunge variation is a great one to include in your routine simply because it accomplishes so much with one movement. It also makes some everyday activities (such as picking things up off the floor or reaching under a piece of furniture) easier to perform.

Other Variations of a Lunge With Elbow to Instep

You can perform this exercise in different ways to better suit your fitness levels and goals.

Reverse Lunge With Instep

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 reverse lunge option. It affords a little more stability as you move in and out of the lunge.

Stand tall with feet hip-distance apart and abdominals engaged. 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.

Continue the movement by tilting your torso forward and down, making sure the back stays long and strong. 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.

Reverse the movement by placing both hands on the floor and shifting your weight onto the front (left) foot, bringing the right foot in to meet the left. Repeat on the other side.

Tabletop Lunge With Elbow to Instep

Another option to make this move less challenging is to do the 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.

Forward Lunge with Knee to Instep and Rotation

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

From the low lunge 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 toward 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

You can also add 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) while shoulders and chest are upright over the hips.

To reverse the movement, 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

Another more challenging variation is to add a hamstring stretch after you reach for your instep. 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, re-bend the right (front leg) and extend the left leg back so that you are in your low lunge again with both hands on the floor. Push off the right foot and propel your body back so that your 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. But instead of stepping the right foot back at the end to bring the feet together, 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 with the right foot forward into a low lunge and continue.

Plank Lunge With Elbow to Instep

This variation adds a core challenge without utilizing 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, then return the right foot back to the plank position. Repeat on the left side.

The lunge with elbow to instep exercise is best suited for people with an intermediate level of fitness. Even the versions modified to make the movement easier are fairly complex and require a moderate level of strength and flexibility.

Common Mistakes

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

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 toward the instep.

To keep this from happening, it might be helpful to watch your form in a mirror. If your back takes on a C shape, 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. This can strain the knee joint.

If you notice that your kneecap extends past the toes, step the foot further out in front or pull your weight back. Ideally, you want a 90-degree bend at the knee, no more.

Lunge 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. That's because this shorter motion is 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. So, make sure your lunge is large enough to support this position.

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. Additionally, the back knee should stay off the floor.

Safety and Precautions

Avoid this exercise 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.

Always seek the guidance of your healthcare provider 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.

Speak with your doctor or physical therapist for personalized advice and to learn whether the lunge with elbow to instep is safe for you to perform. If you experience pain at any time during this exercise, stop the movement immediately.

Aim to complete 8 to 10 reps of this exercise on each side. You can calculate these reps based on the number of lunges completed or, if you alternate between right and left legs in a type of walking elbow to instep, the distance that you travel.

Try It Out

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

3 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.
  1. American College of Sports Medicine. Resources for the exercise physiologist: A practical guide for the health fitness professional (second edition).

  2. Haddad M, Dridi A, Chtara M, et al. Static stretching can impair explosive performance for at least 24 hoursJ Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(1):140-6. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182964836.

  3. Li H, Liu H, Zhang X. The effectiveness of neuromuscular training with augmented feedback on ACL injury prevention. Int Soc Biomechan Sports. 2018;36(1):230.

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.