If you play certain sports, such as tennis, lunging may be a very familiar motion. For others, lunging can be uncomfortable. But if you want to tone your thighs you may grow to love lunging. Lunges can be low-tech exercises that you perform at home. You can also do lunges on high-tech machines. Either way, performing regular lunges can help give you the curvy calves you desire.
Performing the Standard Lunge
Perform the standard, front lunge pretty much the way you’d expect – by lunging forward. Begin by standing erect and striding forward. Make sure your heel lands first, then flatten your foot. As you move ahead with one leg, your back knee bends. Stop lunging when your front thigh is parallel with the floor. Your upper body should lean forward just a bit, with your front shin about parallel with your torso. You should be on the ball of your rear foot, with your back knee near – but not touching – the floor. Press your front heel into the floor to rise back to the starting position. Repeat the move with your opposite leg to complete one repetition. Correct breathing is also important. Inhale as you stride forward, then exhale as you push yourself up. If you’re new to lunging, try starting with eight to 10 reps, with a goal of performing three sets of 12 to 15 reps, with a minute of rest between sets.
Lunges are excellent full-body exercises, particularly if you’re using weights. Most lunge variations target your thighs and glutes. The soleus muscle in your calf assists the thigh and glute muscles while you’re lunging. Additionally, the tibialis anterior muscle, which runs along your shin bones, plus the gastrocnemius, your largest calf muscle, stabilize your body as you’re lunging, providing you with a solid calf workout.
Lunges are politically correct exercises, because you can move to either the right or left if you wish. You can also take a step backward and do a rear lunge. To do a side lunge, just take a step to the side and angle your upper body toward that side. Make sure your front knee points in the same direction as your front foot. For a rear lunge, just step backward. Side lunges work your calves about as well as front lunges, but rear lunges don’t require as much stabilization from the tibialis anterior.
As you’d expect, your muscles work harder if you’re holding weights while you’re lunging, so your calves will receive a more vigorous workout. You can place a barbell across your back, or hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands while you’re performing the lunge. Do the exercises the same way as you’d perform the body-weight lunge, but pay extra attention to make sure you’re using the correct form. If possible, perform free-weight lunges in front of a mirror so you can observe your technique. You can also perform lunges on various weight machines, but you may be limited to rear lunges on many devices.
- ExRx.net: Lunge
- American Council on Exercise: Learn the Forward Lunge
- Anatomy of Exercise; Pat Manocchia
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Rear Lunge
- ExRx.net: Barbell Lunge
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.