Can you imagine a lower body workout without lunges?
Well, if you suffer with knee pain or balance issues, you probably want to.
There’s no doubt about it, lunges are an amazing exercise, but, if you’re struggling to do them, or bored of doing them, there are alternatives.
Yep. You don’t have to do lunges to get strong, toned, firm, legs and bums.
Want to know what they are?
Good news, I’m going to tell you…
Before we look at alternatives I think it’s a good idea to
understand why we do lunges in the first place.
If we understand that, then we can make a more informed decision about whether an exercise is a good alternative.
Does it work the same muscles? Is it giving us the same benefits?
They are actually an accessory exercise.
When you think of lower body workouts, squats have got to be one of the top moves you think of. And for good reason. But lunges help your squat.
They help you balance up your left and right side strength wise.
They help you develop stability.
They help you improve coordination.
Yes, they give your gluteus maximus a pretty good workout. And being a compound exercise they’re great for fat burning and developing leg strength.
But, it’s the stability, coordination and improving muscle imbalances that are most important when it comes to lunges.
And that’s all because it’s a unilateral exercise. Only one side of the body is completing the movement.
So, what can you replace them with?
Well, for starters, other unilateral exercises. But obviously ones that are less jarring for the knees. If knee pain was your reason for not doing lunges in the first place.
Ok, so I’m aware that there may be different reasons for you
choosing not to do lunges.
If you’re just bored of them, then any of these exercises would be an alternative. But if you do suffer with knee problems, we want to stop the jarring of the knee joint that happens when your foot comes to an abrupt stop when you step forward.
So, I’ve divided the list into separate sections.
If you’ve got knee pain, you’ll want to focus on the first 6 in the list.
I’ll then open it up to all the other exciting exercises that can be done.
Ok, glute bridge isn’t a unilateral exercise but is a great one
for working your glutes and your legs.
You’re lying down when you do this one, and your legs are in a static position, so it is much easier on your knees.
Lying on your back with your knees bent, close to your bum, engage your core.
Lift your bum off the floor until your body is in a diagonal line from your neck to your knees.
Make sure to keep your shoulder blades back and down and firmly routed to the floor.
When you’re lifting, do it slowly. Vertebrae by vertebrae really focusing on the movement.
Whilst this is a similar movement to a traditional lunge, you’re
in a static position. This means that you haven’t got that big step
forward each time that you have in traditional lunges.
It’s much, much, much softer on the knees.
They’re also great if you have balance issues, if you find you’re a bit wobbly with traditional lunges.
The other great thing about this move, it is unilateral so you have all of those lovely benefits of lunges.
So, standing tall with your feet hip width apart, engage your core and take a large step forward with your right leg.
Sink to the floor until your right knee is at a 90 degree angle and your back knee is just hovering above the floor.
Drive back up and repeat until you’ve done the required number of repetitions or the required time is up.
Then change legs and repeat on the other side.
This is a fantastic exercise if you’re struggling with knee
pain, knee stability or you have a smaller range of motion.
It’s exactly like a squat, but instead of squatting down towards the ground you squat to a chair.
If you’re weaker in your lower body, start by focusing on the standing up.
So, take a seat, plant your feet firmly on the floor and engage your core (take a deep breath in). Raise your arms out in front of you so that they’re parallel with the floor. This will give you a bit of leverage.
And then, stand up.
I want a determined, powerful, mindful stand.
Sit back down with assistance. Either ask someone or hold on to something. But I don’t want you to just flop down in the chair. Sit down with proper form. And by that I mean, engage your core and sink your bum down.
Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor.
As you get a bit stronger you can remove the assistance sitting down.
Reset once you’ve sat down and start again.
These are very lunge like. They’re static, just like static
lunges, so they should be better for your knee joints.
The main difference with Bulgarian split squats is that one leg is placed on an elevated surface behind you.
Stand in front of a hard surface, a chair or a coffee table would do the trick. You want to make sure there is a bit of distance between you and the surface. About hip-width distance.
Lift your right foot and place it on the chair behind you.
Then, as you would with static lunges, sink down keeping your torso upright.
Sink down until your front leg is roughly parallel with the floor and your knee is at 90 degrees. Your back knee should be hovering above the ground.
This is a great one if you’ve got bad knees, but not so good if
you struggle with balance issues, because you’re raising a leg
behind you, whilst bringing your torso towards the floor.
It is a great exercise to develop your balance, but if you are a bit unsteady on your feet then maybe start with a Bulgarian split squat and once you’ve mastered that, progress to this.
Standing tall, feet hip-width apart and your core engaged, lift your left leg off the floor and take it behind you as you sink your torso towards the ground in front of you.
Keep moving until your torso and your left leg are in a straight line.
Then bring your leg down and your torso up until you return to the starting position.
Now this exercise can be done with just your body weight, or you can grab a weight of some kind. Whether it’s a dumbbell, kettlebell, weight plate, or heavy bag of shopping.
If you’re just using one then hold it in the left hand as you take your left leg back. You can use two if you have them.
Lots of my clients think wall squats are going to be easy. The
wall is essentially helping you so why wouldn’t they be?
Mwah hah hah.
They’re not easy. They are a killer.
They are a static exercise so great for knees. And as lower body exercises go, they’re got it all. Screaming thighs, achy bums and tested cores.
Standing in front of a wall with your feet hip-width apart and your core engaged, sink down into a squat position.
You will probably need to walk your feet out slightly.
Sink down until your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are at a 90 degree angle. And then hold. Pressing your lower back firmly into the wall.
Hold for the required time. Or until you don’t think you can hold any longer.
Ok, that’s it for the ones that will go easy on your knees. Now
onto the exercises that will spice up your workout.
By the way, I’m not saying that these exercises will hurt your knees, or are in anyway bad for your knees. Because they’re not. They are a great way to stave off problems with your knees.
I’m saying that if you suffer with bad knees now, you might want to avoid these exercises as they can exacerbate existing pain. They won’t cause bad knees if you haven’t already got them.
Does that make sense?
These are a great way to add in a bit of variety to your lunge
Instead of staying in one spot doing your lunges, you walk.
They are exactly the same as doing normal lunges, but, when you’re returning to the starting position, instead of bringing your front leg to your back leg, you’ll bring your back leg to your front leg and out further for the next lunge.
So, standing feet hip-width apart with your core engaged, take a large step forward and sink down until your front thigh is parallel with the floor.
Return to the starting position but keep the weight on your front foot as you bring your back leg forward with another large step out in front. And then sink down again.
Keep points with this one...keep your torso upright. Don’t sink it over your front leg. And don’t put your hands on your front leg.
They should stay by your side or swing out in front. Non on your legs.
I’m not a huge fan of side lunges as I find the movement quite
But, they are a great way to add in some variety so I’m going to include them.
In a very similar vain to forward lunges you take a step out and sink down, but this time you take a big step to the side.
Sink down and then return to standing, bringing your lunged foot to your static foot.
You could keep going on the same side, or you could alternate.
Up to you.
As the name suggests, you’re going to need a step for this one.
The bigger the step, the harder the workout.
A plyo box would be great for these, but any larger step would do it. Even your stairs. Maybe two stairs, maybe three.
Standing in front of whatever you’re going to step on, feet hip-width apart, core engaged, raise one leg and step up.
Bring the other foot up and step back down again.
Either on the same leg, or alternating legs. You decide.
So there you have it, 9 ideas for you to try if you can’t, or
you’re just fed up with lunges.
It’s always a good idea to change up your workout routine, it gets boring if you don’t. And a workout you’re bored with, is a workout you probably won’t do.
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