Barbell Lunge Exercise Guide
Barbell lunge develops and tones the muscles of your legs and glutes. It is a dynamic movement that is useful in training for rocket sports, as it improves your ability to reach those difficult shots. Barbell lunge requires good coordination and balance and you cannot use as much weight as in squats and similar exercises. Holding the dumbbells by your sides rather than over your shoulders (barbell lunge) makes it easier for you to hold your body upright. The barbell version tends to allow for greater overload because larger weights can be used. In the beginning, you can even do lunges with no weight at all, just practicing the leg movement.
This exercise targets your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The demands placed on the different muscle groups will depend on your technique.
Remember, take a short (small) step (lunge) to target the quadriceps of the forward leg. A larger (big) step places the emphasis on the gluteals and hamstrings and stretches the rectus femoris and iliopsoas of the back leg.
Barbell Lunge Correct Technique
STARTING (INITIAL) POSITION: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees soft. Grab a moderately weighted barbell and place it across your shoulders (across your upper back – trapezius muscles) as if you’re about to squat with it. Grasp a barbell with an overhand grip and with your hands slightly more than shoulder width apart. Once the bar is in position, move your shoulders back and your chest out so your back is flat and your torso is erect.
EXERCISE EXECUTION (MOVEMENT): Take a big step forward with your right leg, bending it fully at the knee. This causes your torso to sink toward the floor. Your right knee will be in front of your body. At the same time, your left leg will extend behind you at the knee for stability. Bend the forward knee until the thigh is parallel to the floor and the rear knee almost skims the ground. As you lower yourself toward the floor, keep your back straight, your chest thrust out, and the barbell firmly balanced on your shoulders. Make sure your head is up and your eyes are looking forward. Pause briefly in this position before pushing with your right leg to return to your initial position. Repeat the movement right away with your left leg.
Do not attempt this exercise with a weight that makes you feel you are being “forced” downwards or that makes you unstable – you should feel in control of the barbell at all times. Ensure that you keep your torso upright throughout.
Muscles Engaged in Barbell Lunge
Main muscles: quadriceps, gluteus maximus, adductors
Secondary muscles: hamstrings, front quadriceps
Antagonists: iliopsoas, sartorius
Barbell Lunge – Tips & Tricks
- A stable, shoulder-width stance works best to maintain balance.
- Point your toes straight ahead or slightly outward as you step forward.
- Take a short step (lunge) to target the quadriceps. A larger step places the emphasis on the gluteals and hamstrings.
- Keep your shoulders back and your chest out so your back is flat and your torso is erect. Look for your spine to remain in the same position as it moves down and up.
- The lunge requires a lighter weight than most other leg exercises.
- During the lunge, your knee should bend 90 degrees, with your thigh parallel to the floor.
- Avoid raising the heel of your stepping foot off the ground or rotating your hips or torso.
- Breathe in as you step forward and out as you complete the backward step.
Barbell Lunge Variations
- Alternating barbell lunge – instead of performing all of your reps with one leg before repeating with the other, alternate back and forth – doing one rep with your left, then one rep with your right.
- Walking barbell lunge – instead of pushing your body backwards to the starting position, raise up and bring your back foot forward so that you move forward (like you’re walking) a step with every rep.
- Reverse barbell lunge – step backward with your right leg (instead of forward with your left). Then lower your body into a lunge. This looks the same in a photo as the barbell lunge. Do all your reps and repeat with your other leg. You can also use the alternating technique, stepping backward with a different leg each rep.