Squats and hip thrusts are widely considered the best exercises to build the butt, and for a good reason, too, they are. But we can’t rely on two exercises to build round, perky glutes. We need other exercises that challenge the glutes in new ways, from different angles, in different ranges of motion.
That’s where lunges come in. Unlike squats and hip thrusts, lunges are unilateral exercises that bring a whole new stimulus to the glutes. Plus, they’re compound in nature, meaning we’re also targeting the quads, hamstrings, calfs, and core in one movement.
We suggest adding a lunge variation to your glute day workouts for a well-developed, heart-shaped bum.
Today we’ll discuss our favourite lunge variations, along with explaining the best ‘Tips’ for you to incorporate, to further target the glutes during the lunging movements. But first, before we get into that, let’s take a look at the anatomy of the glutes and their role in lunge movements.
|Table of Contents|
|Glute anatomy and role|
|How do lunges benefit the glutes|
|Best lunge variation for glute growth|
The glutes are the biggest and one of the most powerful muscles in the body. They are responsible for everyday tasks walking, running, jumping, and hinging at the hip.
In all honesty, most movements we perform are stabilized by the glutes, and if strength in this region is compromised, then every region is compromised. Thus it’s extremely important we train the glutes to keep up with the daily demands.
The glutes are made up of 3 muscles:
The gluteus maximas is the largest muscle of the 3 and makes up the majority of the shape of the butt. The main role of the maximas is glute extension, which means to increase the angle between the thigh and the hip (Think moving the body behind the leg or coming out the bottom of a lunge).
The gluteus medius is the 2nd largest muscle in the region and is located at the top sides of the bum. The main role of the medius is abduction, which is to move your leg outwards away from the centre line of the body, but it also aids in external rotation: which is to twist your foot outwards.
The smallest of the 3 muscles is the gluteus minimus. This muscle sits underneath the other 2, again at the side of the bum. The minimus works alongside the medius to help with abduction and external rotation.
Although 3 separate muscles, they all work together to stabilize the hip in nearly every lower body movement we make.
Lunges are one of the best exercises to target all 3 muscles of the glutes. The unilateral nature of lunges makes them perfect for maximizing muscular activation while challenging balance and stability.
During a lunge, we’re targeting all 3 of the glute muscles. Glute extension is required to get out of the flexed position created by lunging, which is the primary role of the maximas (the largest out of the 3 glute muscles). We can ensure maximum glute recruitment during this exercise by focusing on driving through the heel instead of the toes, and by reducing the load put through our back leg.
The medius and minimus are also worked hard during a lunge because of the need to stabilize the hip in a single-leg stance. As previously mentioned, the medius/minumus help to rotate the hip externally and abduct it away from the body. This will help create balance and stability during a lunge thus further recruiting the glutes.
Because lunges are unilateral exercises (exercises that target one limb at a time), they can help iron out any muscle imbalances or weaknesses you may have. This is an important part of training if you want to build a symmetrical physique, optimise performance and remain injury free.
Lunges can also help increase hip mobility, particularly when doing movements such as the reverse lunge. As we move into a deeper lunge, more flexibility is required at the hips. This can help improve overall lower body mobility and stability, which can, in turn, provide additional benefits when performing other exercises.
Lastly, lunges are a key ingredient in muscle hypertrophy. The muscle is worked in a stretched position when performing the lunge, and research (1) has shown that placing a stretched muscle under load has positive benefits on muscle hypertrophy.
Lunging forward is one of the most common lunge variations, but it can put a lot of strain on the knee joint. Lunging backwards, on the other hand, is a lot more joint-friendly and shifts most of the work onto the glutes and hamstrings, rather than the quads.
Reverse lunge – How to:
Tips for Reverse Lunges:
Deficit reverse lunges are like the regular reverse lunge but with added spice. The introduction of a deficit makes things extra challenging and this seemingly little change can have a big impact.
A deficit is created by elevating the front foot on a step or a platform a few inches off of the ground. The deficit allows us to go into a greater range of motion which helps to activate the glutes further.
Deficit reverse lunge – How to:
Tips for Deficit Reverse Lunges:
The lateral lunge (or sideways lunge) is an excellent move for working the glutes, particularly the two main muscles that make up the buttocks - the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius.
As we touched on earlier in the article, the role of the gluteus medius is to move the leg away from the midline of the body, which is the very movement we’re performing here.
Lateral Lunge – How to:
Tips for the Lateral Lunge:
Similar to the reverse lunge, the curtsey lunge is an excellent glute-strengthening exercise with a slight twist (literally). Instead of stepping back with the non-working leg, you must cross it behind and across your body.
This motion effectively activates the gluteus medius (the muscle in the upper glutes) for an even more comprehensive workout. Be sure to take it slow when performing this exercise and focus on good form and control.
Curtsey Lunge – How to:
Tips for the Curtsey Lunge:
Walking lunges can be an effective option if you want to add a bit of variation. This exercise is both dynamic and functional. It’s a great lunge variation that can help build strength for everyday tasks.
The dynamic nature of the exercise can help improve balance and coordination which can spill over into other exercises and can also help with improved performance in sporting disciplines.
Walking Lunge – How to:
Tips for Walking Lunges
This high-intensity plyometric move combines cardio and strength training to pump up your glute, build strength and burn calories. The alternating jumping lunge is a great exercise if you’re looking for more of an explosive workout or you’re short on time. Get your heart rate racing, build up a sweat and build those lower body muscles.
Alternating Lunge – How to:
Tips for the Alternating Jumping Lunge:
Lunges are an effective and versatile exercise for building muscle and shaping your glutes. From the classic lunge to the more challenging jumping lunge, we have several lunge variations available to us to give the booty the boost it needs.
Remember, start with bodyweight the version and only once you’ve mastered the form should you move on to the weighted versions. Apply progressive overload by increasing the intensity over time to maximise the results.
We hope you’ve learned the importance of lunges for glutes and realise why they need to be incorporated into your program to maximise glute growth – happy building!