women doing lunges

The Best Lunge Variations for Glutes

by Evelyn Valdez

If squats are the king of glute exercises, then lunges are the queen. Lunges are a unilateral exercise that trains one side of your body at a time, which can help correct muscle imbalances. 

Lunges are exercises you can’t escape from if you want to deeply train your glutes. They target all three of the major glute muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. They are also some of the best moves for toning the inner thighs. 

Bodybuilders from beginner to advanced can benefit from lunges. You can include kettlebells, barbells, resistance bands, and other equipment to up the intensity, or simply use your own bodyweight. But before you can start getting that rounder backside, you need to know how to maintain your form for the least amount of pain and the best results.

How to do lunges with proper form

A common problem bodybuilders have with lunges is keeping the right form. You do need to have some level of balance and stability, so these elements of your technique should also be built up when performing lunge exercises. 

Your back should never be rounded or arched when lunging. If it helps, you can lean slightly forward in your hips so there’s no as much strain on your lower back. For others, it’s better to keep their torso straight. Everyone’s anatomy is different, so the way they’ll lunge won’t be the same. How deeply someone can lunge will depend on their own range of motion, but this can be developed just like our muscles. 

The most important thing to remember about lunges is to know how to correctly distribute your weight into the stance. Unless you have longer limbs, you should not allow your knees to go past your toes. You’ll put too much unnecessary pressure on your knees. Think of lunges as a single-leg squat, where you’re putting most of your weight into your glutes and quads.

Those with knee problems may find some lunge variations are too difficult, especially the traditional lunge. Don’t try pushing yourself if the exercises cause a ton of pain or discomfort. Speak with your doctor or a certified personal trainer about alternative exercises that could help improve your knee pain while still being able to train the lower body.

6 of the best lunge variations for rounding your glutes

This list is only scratching the surface of how many lunge variations exist. There are actually more than 20, but these moves will still have you working out most of the major lower-body muscles groups, including your quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, and of course, the glutes. 

Cable lateral lunge

Lateral lunges benefit our mobility, flexibility, and strength. With just this one move, you’re targeting the glutes, quads, hamstrings, adductors, and abductors. Leaning into the lunge offers a great stretch for your groin and adductors. It also helps increase the mobility in your hips. 

This cable variation adds a little more weight alongside your own bodyweight for some extra intensity. Don’t have a pair of comfortable ankle straps? Our UPPPER ankle straps are made with microfiber vegan leather with a blend of neoprene padding on the inside for a cushy feeling that won’t keep rubbing up and down your ankle!

  1. Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Wrap the ankle strap around your left or right ankle.
  2. Take a large step out to the side with your weighted leg. Push your hips back and bend into your front knee until it creates a 90-degree angle. Make sure your opposite leg remains strong and straight.
  3. Push through your bent leg into the starting position. Complete your set reps and switch to the other side. 

    Dumbbell forward lunge

    These lunges are the same as a regular lunge, just with a pair of dumbbells added in. It puts more emphasis on maintaining your balance causing your quad muscles to work a little harder. Keep in mind, you don’t need to use weighted dumbbells that are super heavy. A set of 5lbs or 10lbs dumbbells are more than enough to get the job done. 

    1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and place your feet shoulder-width apart. 
    2. Step forward with one leg until the thigh is parallel with the floor. 
    3. Push through your heel and lift yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

      Walking lunge (weighted or unweighted)

      Walking lunges are great because you can do them at any fitness level and you keep the lower body muscle working continuously. Some may find this move tricky at first because it requires far more balance than static lunges. However, once you find a good rhythm, you’ll be able to keep walking forward with ease. You can always add dumbbells or a medicine ball for extra weight or include a torso twist to target your abdominal muscles at the same time. 

      1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can either keep your arms straight at your side or place your hands on your hips to help you feel steadier. 
      2. Step your right or left leg forward, bend into your knee, and lower down while placing your weight into your front heel.
      3. While keeping your bent leg in the same position, step forward with your opposite leg and repeat the movement.
      4. Gather your balance and continue walking forward, alternating your legs into a lunge position. 

        Clock lunge

        Clock lunges will allow you to hit three different variations in quick succession. This move incorporates a forward, side, and reverse lunge all in one! So, if you’re short on time (wink, wink), you’ll definitely want a move that targets different muscle groups in your glutes and lower body all at once.

        1. Start in a standing position with your feet directly under your hips. 
        2. The first lunge you’ll do is a forward lunge. Move your right leg forward and bend into your knee. Both knees should be at 90 degrees. This is considered to be the 12 o’clock position. 
        3. Lift yourself back up to standing, then take that same leg and perform a side (lateral) lunge. Now you’re at the 3 o’clock stance. 
        4. Push back again to the starting position and step your moving leg back toward 6 o’clock into a reverse lunge. 
        5. Come back to a standing position and finish it off with another side lunge on your left leg at the 9 o’clock position. 
        6. Rotate around the whole clock again using your left leg.

          Curtsy lunge

          It’s time to practice your curtsy! Normal lunges are already good for the booty, but this variation is especially nice because it targets the gluteus medius AND your inner thighs. Now you’ll be the fittest prince or princess at the gym! 

          1. Stand so your feet are in line with your hips and place your hands on your hips. 
          2. With either your right or left foot, step back and cross your foot behind your opposite leg.
          3. Lower into the curtsy and keep your back heel up so your weight rests on the ball of your foot. The front knee should bend at a 90-degree angle. 
          4. Lift up from the curtsy and return to the starting position. Repeat on the same side or alternate the curtsy between both legs. 

            Split lunge jump

            These lunges will have you feeling the burn! Split lunge jumps are a power move that will train your balance, stability, and coordination, not just your glutes and lower body. Doing exercises that have you jumping in the air help build up your explosive power. Beginners might be a bit challenged by this move. Controlling the landing while keeping your form takes a good level of coordination and concentration. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll always want to have this move in your lunge playbook!

            1. Stand straight and place your right or left leg back behind you so you’re already starting out in a slight lunge. Engage your core throughout the move so you have better balance as you land.
            2. Place your weight on the ball of your back foot and into your front foot. 
            3. Jump in the air (not too high) and switch your legs mid-jump before immediately landing in a lunge position. Both legs should be at 90-degrees. Swing your arms in front of you to give you more momentum when you jump. 
            4. Keep switching between legs every time you jump. 

              Lunges are one of the best exercises for glute activation

              You need more than one kind of exercise to increase muscle hypertrophy in your glutes and lower body. Lunges hit all the right areas and have countless variations to try out, so you never get too bored with one move. These muscles can be hard to train for some bodybuilders. The more exercises you can add to your lower body workout, the easier it will be to compound your results. 

              Are you looking for more exercises that go hard on your legs and glutes? See what are the top eight single-leg exercises we recommended for a fire-inducing leg day.

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