How to Do the Weighted Lunge

Weighted Lunges Are Excellent Exercises for Leg Strength, Flexion, and Extension

The lunge is basically a giant step. The weighted lunge is a leg movement with weights, usually forward but sometimes backward or even at various angles from the body. The exercise strengthens the leg muscles and the gluteal or butt muscles.

The exercise can be done without weights, with dumbbells or kettlebells held at the sides or at shoulder level; or with a barbell at the chest or behind the neck on the shoulders. Lunges work the upper leg muscles, hamstrings, and buttocks muscles, and train flexion and extension in the legs.

Learn more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise.

The Starting Position

Dumbbell. Mike Powell / Staff / Getty Images
  1. Choose dumbbells of the weight that will enable you to complete the exercise sets you have chosen. Trial and error will be required to settle on a suitable weight. Start with a light weight.
  2. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Hang arms at your sides. Palms should face in toward the thighs (hammer grip). Feet should be a little less than shoulder width apart.

The Exercise Movement

The lunge movement.
The lunge movement. Erik Isakson/Getty Images
  1. Take a big step forward (with either leg) while bending at the knee until the front thigh is approaching parallel to the ground and the rear leg is bent at the knee and balanced on the toes. Don't let the forward knee go past the tip of the toes as this puts significant strain on the knee. 
  2. Step back to your starting position, and repeat the motion with the other leg, alternating legs until the exercise program set is complete.

Points to Note

weighted barbell lunge
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  • Although the exercise can be done without weights, a weighted lunge provides additional work for the muscles. For women, in particular, it provides the weight-bearing exercise that is so important for bone health.
  • If your balance is not great, do not use weights when attempting this exercise. Start with the unweighted exercise until you develop balance and confidence that you can perform it with weights. Start with dumbbells first; do not attempt it with a barbell on your shoulders if you are not absolutely confident in your ability to balance.
  • For better balance, don't lift the rear foot too far on to the toes until you get a feel for this exercise. You'll get better as you practice.
  • Remember, don't move the knee of the forward leg past the tips of the toes.
  • This is a good exercise to include in a circuit-training program of exercises.

Weighted Lunge Variations

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  • Variations include backward and forward lunges at an angle to the body.
  • The exercise can also be performed with dumbbells held at the front of the shoulders or with a barbell on the shoulders, behind the neck. These are more advanced versions of the lunge.
  • Another variation of this exercise is called the "walking lunge." Instead of returning to the starting position, you walk forward by bringing the rear leg forward and then lunging into another step. This is a more advanced version and should not be used if you are not confident in your balance.