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Dumbbell Lunges – Exercise Guide and Benefits

Dumbbell lunges play a valuable role in nearly every strength, power, fitness, and sport athletes movement arsenal. Whether looking for increase muscle mass, joint integrity, or sport specific applications (increased squat, split jerks, running and more); look no further than the dumbbell lunge.

Therefore, in this article we will discuss the dumbbell lunge, popular variations, and why they are so effective for increased athletic performance and injury prevention.

Dumbbell Lunge Exercise Demo

Below is a video demonstration of the dumbbell lunge, which could also be done using the dumbbell lunge  variations discussed in the next section.

Dumbbell Lunge Variations

Below are a list of a few of the most popular dumbbell lunge variations used to develop the lower body.

Reverse Lunge

The reverse Lunge (also called drop lunge) is a popular variation to target the hamstrings and gluteals to a great extent (especially if done with a bigger step back) as the athlete is forced to eccentrically contract their hamstrings and gluteals (and quadriceps) to control the lowering phase and concentrically assist in the upwards phase. This movement slightly differs from the forward lunge as the loading is dispersed across the posterior chain to a greater extent.

Forward Lunge

While similar to the reverse lunge, the forward lunge is often done with a small step forward eccentrically lowing the body downwards into the split via the quadriceps muscles, which then must concentrically contract to bring the lifter upright. The loading is slightly greater on the quadriceps than in the reverse variation, however bigger steps will increase involvement of the posterior chain in the movement.

Walking Lunge

The walking lunge is a perfect fusion of both variations above, which can be individualized to target the hamstring, glutes, or quads more by altering the steps taken (wider steps increases posterior chain and hips involvement and smaller steps result in a more upright torso angle of the lifter and more quadriceps development). The walking variation is a great way to increase training volume, challenge balance, coordination, and pattern joint movements applicable to human locomotion (running, sprinting, etc).

Front Foot Elevated Reverse Lunge

The front foot elevated lunge offers many of the similar benefit of the reverse lunge above, however additionally has the lifter increase knee flexion (due to the increased range of motion in the step) resulting in a more vertical back/torso angle. This can help to pattern very similar movements to that of the back squat and further increase muscular hypertrophy.

Why Do Dumbbell Lunges?

Below are a few reasons why dumbbell lunges can be a valuable movement in one’s functional fitness and sports performance training.

Unilateral Development

We have discussed in detail the immense benefits of unilateral training, specifically for the lower body. Increases in unilateral muscular development, strength, and coordination can increase bilateral performance, muscular activation, and growth.

Muscular Hypertrophy

The dumbbell lunge is a great exercise to add quality muscular hypertrophy to the lower body. Altering the variations, tempos, and training schemes (reps and sets) can further help to individualize hypertrophic progress.

Injury Prevention

Unilateral movement asymmetries and muscular imbalances are often causes of injuries, typically due to neglecting poor movement patterning and compensations. Performing dumbbell lunges can work to increase unilateral coordination, balance, and performance.

Application to Sport

Whether you are a runner, sprinter, or multi-sport athlete, unilateral and multi directional lunging (side, reverse, walking, diagonal, etc) are key for improvements in joint mobility, intramuscular and intermuscular coordination, and movement development.

More Unilateral Exercises!

Check out the top unilateral training articles below and bulletproof your body and improve performance today!

Featured Image: @fitnessvloggers on Instagram

Editor’s Note: BarBend reader John Parker CSCS, CHEK, SMK, had this to say after reading this piece:

“This article really nails how to master the lunge from all angles. I’ve seen the lunge as a pivotal movement for all the athletes I train. Once they get the form, the strength in the unilateral position of the lunge translates to increased speed and power in sprinting. I think lunging belongs in all strength and conditioning programs.”

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Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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