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How To Choose A Lunge Alternative That Works For You

training Sep 20, 2021
The lunge is one of the most fundamental movements in the gym and in life. Training the lunge translates to better movement quality in jogging, sprinting, hiking, walking in addition to being a spine-friendly alternative to building bigger and stronger quads, hamstrings, glutes & hips.
 
Choosing the best lunge for you is a lot like shopping cars online. If you want to find your ideal car you have to sort through several filters like: make, model, year, color, mileage, location, etc.
 
Each filter you add shrinks your list of eligible options.
 
When it comes to selecting the best lunge alternative for you, there are several variables to consider.
  1. What is your skill level?
  2. What is your training goal?
  3. Where is this lunge programmed within your workout?
  4. What equipment do you have at your disposal?
  5. What limiters do you have in the way of mobility, grip, or injury history.
Below you'll find several demonstrations of lunge variations with
 

Skill Level

 
Generally speaking, more advanced lifters will have better balance in unilateral movements.
Lunges and split stances require a lot of stabilization and proprioception. The more familiar someone is with weighted lunge variations, the less stabilization they will require.
 

Training Goal

 
Hypertrophy-based goals will want to prioritize high stability movements (trading a forward lunge for a static split lunge)
 
Strength-based goals will require variations that allow for higher loads (trading a KB goblet grip for a barbell)
 
Movement quality based goals should test your body awareness and coordination.
 
There will be a lot of overlap with these, but it's important to know your options and how to pull levers.
 

Workout Programming

 
Lunges in the start of the workout will usually be more focused on strength whereas lunges programmed later in your workout will usually compliment the main focus of the goal.
 
For example, banded split squats would help clean up movement quality so you can progress in a squat or heavy Bulgarian variation.
 

Equipment Available

 
Whether you're in a home gym set up or have access to a full gym, there's going to be times where you need be resourceful.
 
Your home gym might lack heavy enough kettlebells so you need to load a landmine or barbell.
 
On the flip-side, we've all ran situations at the gym where 4 people are stationed at the equipment you need and you don't have 20 minutes to wait for Chad to finish his curls in the squat rack.
 
A quick audit of what's available will help you narrow your focus towards the variation that works best.
 

Limiters

 
Lunges place a lot of stress on the joints in the foot, ankle, knee, and hip. If you lack mobility in one of these areas or your have a recent injury, you'll need to program your lunge around your limitations.
 
Barbell lunges are great unless you have a shoulder injury that doesn't allow for the required external rotation.
 
The lunge alternative you choose should alleviate pain, not exacerbate it.
 
Grip is also a sneaky culprit of lunges.
 
Have you ever started a set of walking lunges only to drop the weights due to your forearms feeling on fire?
 
Switching out DB or KB for a barbell would solve this issue and allow you to actually muscle fatigue.
 

Benefits & Limitations Of Lunge Variations

DB Bulgarian Split Squat

 
 

Benefits

  • Increased stability with two points of contact
  • Requires little space and is easy to set up
  • DB & KB are more common
  • Potential option for Turf Toe since the toes don't ever extend
  • Great option for glute and hip dominant work

Limitations

  • Less stability than split stance
  • Grip can become a limiter with heavier weights
 

Barbell Bulgarian Split Squat

 
 

Benefits

  • Can increase the load much more than grip dependent versions
  • Potential option for Turf Toe since the toes don't ever extend
  • Great option for glute and hip dominant work

Limitations

  • The barbell and single leg variation requires a lot of skill and stability
  • Shoulder mobility can make racked barbells hard to hold
  • Requires a squat rack and a bench

DB Split Lunge

 
 

Benefits

  • Increased stability with two points of contact and the feet never move
  • Requires little space and is easy to set up
  • DB & KB are more common
  • Quad dominant

Limitations

  • The back leg can get too engaged for novice lifters, straining the quads
  • Grip can become a limiter with heavier weights

KB Reverse Lunge

 
 

Benefits

  • Can help with knee pain due to hip dominant nature
  • Requires minimal skill to execute
  • Requires little space and is easy to set up
  • DB & KB are more common

Limitations

  • The back leg can get too engaged for novice lifters, straining the quads
  • Grip can become a limiter with heavier weights

Supported DB Split Lunge

 
 

Benefits

  • Increased stability with two points of contact and the feet never move
  • Requires little space and is easy to set up
  • DB & KB are more common
  • Quad dominant

Limitations

  • The back leg can get too engaged for novice lifters, straining the quads
  • Grip can become a limiter with heavier weights
 

KB Forward Lunge

 
 

Benefits

  • One of the most functional movement patterns you can train
  • Requires little space and is easy to set up
  • Can execute with KB, DB, Sand Bags, Med Balls, or Bodyweight
  • Quad dominant

Limitations

  • Novice lifters will need to be conscious of striding too far and straining their trail leg
  • Novice lifters may initially struggle to maintain even weight distribution in the foot, resulting in knee pain
  • Grip can become a limiter with heavier weights

Single KB Side Lunge

 
 

Benefits

  • Training in the lateral plan is often neglected
  • Great exercise for hip stability
  • The hanging arm helps those unable to maintain an upright posture in a side lunge

Limitations

  • Stepping into lunges is a harder variation than having a wide stance and sliding into a lunge with the foot already planted

DB Goblet Side Lunge

 
 

Benefits

  • Training in the lateral plan is often neglected
  • Great exercise for hip stability
  • The goblet grip challenges the anterior core
  • Sliding into side lunges is easier to control vs. stepping into a lunge

Limitations

  • Goblet grips will limit the load due to the tension placed on the upper back, grip, and shoulders.
  • A goblet grip requires a lot of mobility to keep the chest upright and the heavier the weight, the more skill is required from the lifter
 
 
There are hundreds of ways to set up lunges and these videos barely touch the surface on how we think about programming exercises for our clients.
 
The more advanced you are, the more alternatives open up to you.
 
However, mastering the basics is proven time and time again to produce the best results.
 
In the end, you need to find a lunge variation that allows you to progress. Programming the right variation to your goal and skill level is what makes our programming different than the millions of workout programs you'll find online.
 
 
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