If your legs could use a boost in strength and tone, go ahead and "take the lunge." A simple, yet powerful exercise, the lunge is effective at delivering what you're after: legs that can meet the strenuous challenges of daily life and look good doing it. Like most exercises, though, the lunge isn't for everyone. Rushing into full lunges can leave your muscles burning for days. It makes sense to begin with a partial lunge, which uses the same muscles as a full lunge but is gentler on your stems.
Walk or cycle for a few minutes before working out to warm up. If you're not a fan of exercise, warming up might seem like a major time-waste. The reality is that it can actually make exercising and stretching easier and less painful, while increasing your flexibility and coordination. Get a good warmup, then sail through the motions of a partial lunge without so much as a grimace.
Stretch your leg muscles briefly. Like warming up, stretching can help you avoid injuries and make your actual workout much more pleasant. Bend your knees, one at a time, pulling your leg up against the back of your thigh with your foot pointing toward your rear. Then sit down with your feet extended straight out and touch your toes. Finally, sit with your knees bent and the bottoms of your feet pointed toward one another. Pull your feet in -- slowly, now! -- until you feel a stretch.
Stand up straight, facing forward, with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep your toes pointed forward and your knees loose and unlocked. Take a broad step forward so that your front leg is 2 or 3 feet from your back leg. Hold the position until you gain your balance. If your muscles hurt or start shaking, forgo the self-torture and move your front foot back a little. This makes it easier to do a partial lunge.
Bend your front knee toward the ground. Again, take it slowly, lowering yourself only as far as you comfortably can -- the urge to scream "Uncle" means you've gone too far. If you can only go down a few inches, that's fine. If you make it almost to the ground, that's fine, too. When you've gone as far down as you can, push forward with your front foot and return to a standing position. Repeat with the other foot.
- Stretching Anatomy; Arnold G. Nelson
- American Council on Exercise; Forward Lunge
- When performing partial leg lunges becomes easy-peasy, it's a sign you may be ready to move on to full lunges.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.