Dumbbell Lunge Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NameDumbbell Lunge (non-alternating)
Also CalledFront Lunge
Primary MusclesQuadriceps
Secondary MusclesHamstringsGlutesCalves
Required EquipmentDumbbells
Optional EquipmentChalk, Wrist Straps
Rep Range5-15
VariationsAlternating lunge, Barbell lunge, Walking lunge, Rear lunge, Goblet lunge, Zercher lunge
AlternativesStep upSplit squatBulgarian split squat, Pistol

Dumbbell Lunge Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Setup

  • Find a clear area to do the movement without obstruction.
  • Get a pair of dumbbells of the desired weight.
  • Grasp onto the dumbbells with a normal grip style.
  • Stand up with the dumbbells down at your sides with a neutral grip position (i.e. palms facing inward).
  • Assume a hip width stance with your feet pointing foward.
  • Achieve and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Step forward with your weaker side, raising your knee higher than normal to avoid accidentally tripping.
  • Land the step with your knee slightly flexed and shin perpendicular to the floor.
  • Drop your hips straight down by flexing both knees and the leading hip.

3. Midpoint

  • Stop when your trailing knee is behind your torso and about to touch the floor.
  • The angle of the trailing knee joint should be slightly more than 90°.
  • The angle of the leading knee joint should be slightly less than 90°.
  • Don’t pause here. It’s only a transition point from the negative to the positive rep.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Drive your leading heel diagonally downward against the floor.
  • Extend the leading knee and hip to propel your body upward and backward.
  • Extend your trailing leg as you step back to the starting position.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the movement for the remaining repetitions, on the same side. After completing this, you will have accomplished half of the set.
  • Proceed to perform the same number of repetitions on the opposite leg. This completes one full set.
  • Dumbbell lunges are generally effective between 5-15 reps. However, I believe that 8-10 reps is ideal.

Common Dumbbell Lunge Errors to Avoid

Torso leaning forwardKeep your torso upright by maintaining a neutral pelvic alignment, and squeezing your abs and glutes. Don’t overextend your lower back.
Shoulders forwardPull your shoulders back and down and keep your chest up.
Knees buckled inwardKeep your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes.
Knee beyond toesKeep your leading knee behind your toes. If your knee goes slightly beyond your toes sometimes, you’ll be fine. It gets dangerous if your knee extends way past your toes, often.
Stutter-steppingDon’t stutter-step. When pushing back against the ground, the one and only time your let foot should touch the ground is when you are returning to the starting stance. This backwards step should be one smooth motion: Explode backward by pushing off your heel and begin extending your knees and hips, and flexing your glutes.

Dumbbell Lunge Tips

  1. Glute activation. You should actively contract the gluteal muscles on your rear leg throughout the up and down motions. This can solve the back-arching and knee-buckling problems described in the above section on errors. Glute activation also contributes directly to an increase in force output, which is most helpful when lunging away from the floor, back up to the starting position. If you can’t feel a strong contraction, you need to practice glute activation exercises. (You likely have lordosis, a common postural deficiency).
  2. Rest between switching sides. While it is ideal to immediately switch sides after completing one half of the set, it’s not always practical. Rest for 15-30 seconds, if needed, to catch your breath and/or to give your forearms a break. This is sufficient time to recuperate and be able to train the opposite side with minimal hindrance from fatigue.
  3. Change muscle emphasis by modifying your stance distance. You can significantly shift the focus of the lunge by simply changing the distance between your leading and trailing leg.
    • Emphasize the quadricpes. A shorter stance distance emphasizes the quadriceps.
    • Emphasize the glutes & hams. A longer stance distance emphasizes the glutes and hamstrings.
  4. Change muscle emphasis by changing. You can significantly shift the focus of the lunge by simply changing the distance between your leading and trailing leg.
    • Train the entire upper leg more evenly. Pushing off the heel (as described in the instructions) trains your thigh more evenly, though it’s still a quad-dominant movement.
    • Emphasize the quadriceps. Pushing off the ball of the foot puts emphasizes almost completely on the quadriceps.
  5. Watch Out for that Knee! You can avoid accidentally bumping your trailing knee against a hard floor by doing your lunges on rubber gym flooring, or by simply putting a towel on the floor under your trailing knee.
  6. Dumbbells Too Heavy? As you work your way up to lunging with heavier dumbbells, you have difficultly performing the movement correctly because your forearms tire and your grip gives out. Here’s some solutions…
    • Improve your grip strength. This obviously isn’t a quick fix, but it’s the best solution because it’s permanent and it will help you on other lifts, too.
    • Use chalk. Chalk is great for more than just hop skotch! It’ll give you a no-slip grip. A slight slip or shift of the dumbbell within your grasp is often the reason for grip failure; not necessarily lack of strength.
    • Use lifting straps. Lifting straps work great, but they act as a sort of “crutch” because they remove much of the work . As such, I advise trying chalk before resorting to straps.
    • Reduce the load and increase the reps. This is the easiest solution to implement. Not only will it instantly fix your grip issue, but it also throws some variation into your routine. However, it’s not practical if you’re already doing high reps (e.g. 12-15).
    • Do a dumbbell lunge variation, such as the barbell lunge. It requires no grip or forearm work and lets you use heavier loads.
    • Do a dumbbell lunge alternative, such as the Bulgarian split squat. It works the forearms, but you get a comparable leg workout with a much lighter load.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

Dumbbell lunges are for all levels of experience. No matter if you’re a beginner, intermediate or an advanced lifter, this exercise can be a perfect addition to your stash of weight lifting exercises.

Consider avoiding dumbbell lunges if you have any of the following ailments:

  • Posture and/or Flexibility Issues. If you are significantly impaired by posture problems and/or a lack of flexibility, you should temporarily skip this exercise. Instead, focus on performing the relevant flexibility and mobility exercises and stretches to counteract the problem.
  • Knee Issues. If you have very fragile or injury-ridden knees, you may want to pass on this exercise. But if you still think you’re capable, then it’s smart to proceed with great caution. Take special care to avoid moving your front knee over your toes, and do not let your knees buckle. And it almost goes without saying, try not to slam your rear knee into the floor! :-O
  • Toe & Ankle Issues. You likely won’t be able to do the exercise if you have an injured ankle or big toe joints. Pain sensations will prevent you from performing the technique correctly since the lunge movement requires significant toe extension and ankle flexion.
Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

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