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10 Lunge Variations To Perk Up Your Butt, Annihilate Your Abs, And Send Fat Waterfalling

lunge variations, lunges, lunge, dumbbell lunges, lunge exercises, different lunges, dumbbell lunge, advanced lunges

Image: Cody Blog

If you frequently indulge leg day, you’ve undoubtedly bombarded your body with an onslaught of lunges.

Along with squats, the lunge sits at the pinnacle of lower body — and body fat — annihilation. It’s a high-intensity, compound exercise that pinpoints an avalanche of force on a single leg and requires explosive power to execute. Combine that with the lunge’s unique ability to produce a deep stretch across a wide range of motion, and the stabilization needed to stay upright, and it becomes the perfect cocktail to light the glutes, hamstrings, and quads up like a roaring bonfire.

That ultimately chisels out lean, svelte, toned legs; a tight, perky butt; and a ripped-up, rock-solid core that’s capable of anchoring your entire body.

Now let’s upgrade all of that. Lunges are phenomenal because they offer extreme versatility. They’re highly modular and function as a gateway to a variety of sophisticated multi-joint movements. Regardless of the variation, your legs will always be at the forefront and take on the brunt of the focus. But re-angle the movement patterns and add weights in different places, and lunges instantly escalate into a full-body, muscle thrashing, fat-torching juggernaut.

Spontaneously, they’re capable of burning out the forearms and biceps, tearing up the shoulders, and generating significant pressure across the core; which helps cultivate strong abs.

We’ve pulled together 10 of the top lunge variations to crank up the difficulty and break the monotony of leg day. Each exercise requires major focus, coordination, and stabilization to complete successfully — and that ultimately releases streams of sweat and packs a punch that’ll reverberate up-and-down your entire body. Variations include:

  1. Dumbbell Lunges
  2. Bulgarian Split Lunges
  3. Jumping Lunges
  4. Kettlebell Front Lunges
  5. Dumbbell Side Lunges
  6. Lunging Bicep Curls
  7. Lunging Shoulder Press
  8. Lunging Oblique Twists
  9. Barbell Reverse Lunges
  10. Reverse Lunge & Row

Get ready to SHAKE.


Lunge Variation 1: Dumbbell Lunges

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How to:

Video Demo — Dumbbell Lunges


Dumbbell Lunges are the most basic lunge variation and the launching point for everything else on this list. Using dumbbells builds forearm strength, adds an element of core stabilization (staying perfectly upright is always the goal), and puts significantly more weight on the legs. Challenge = growth.

  • (1) Stand tall with two dumbbells. Take one large step forward with your left leg and lunge down until your left thigh is parallel with the floor; your right knee should be slightly above the floor. Maintain a flat back and strong posture throughout.
  • (2) Contract your butt and hamstrings, press through your left heel, and powerfully drive up into standing position. Repeat a full set with your left leg, switch sides, and repeat for the right.

Pro Tip: Use 1 dumbbell. It puts your body off-balance and forces it to stabilize to a higher degree, which engages the core significantly more.



Lunge Variation 2: Bulgarian Split Lunges

bulgarian lunges, lunge variations, lunges, lunge, dumbbell lunges, lunge exercises, different lunges, dumbbell lunge, advanced lunges

How to:

Video Demo — Bulgarian Split Lunges


Technically they’re called Bulgarian Split Squats, but for our purposes, the movement mimics a lunge. So we’re counting it. It’s not intuitive, but elevating your leg SIGNIFICANTLY increases the difficulty and range of motion, which provides more glute and quad stimulation. These burn like nothing else.

  • (1) Grab 2 dumbbells and stand in front of a bench or plyometric step (or use a couch, table, etc.).
  • (2) Place your right foot on top of the bench and step out roughly 2 feet. You should be able to stand comfortably.
  • (3) Lunge forward until your left quad is parallel to the floor. Keep your core tight and resist the pull to lean forward — stay as upright as possible.
  • (4) Powerfully push through your heel, contract your butt and hamstrings, and press up to a full stand.
  • (5) Complete a full set on one side and repeat for the opposite leg.



Lunge Variation 3: Jumping Lunges

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How to:

Video Demo — Jumping Lunges


Jumping Lunges are a quick-hitting leg movement that incorporates plyometrics to amp up the intensity. They’re designed to be fast, fluid, intense, and explosive.

  • (1) Stand tall and lunge forward.
  • (2) Powerfully press up, propel yourself up into the air, and immediately lunge with the opposite leg.
  • (3) Continue to alternate legs quickly without stopping.

Pro Tip: Use dumbbells.



Lunge Variation 4: Lunging Shoulder Press

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How to:

Video Demo — Lunging Shoulder Press


The Lunging Shoulder Press builds on the dumbbell lunge and adds a shoulder press at the bottom of the movement. Because the weights are overhead and you’re off balance, this requires immense strength and stabilization throughout your core. Keep it tight throughout.

  • (1) Stand tall and hold two dumbbells with a neutral grip. Raise them up to shoulder height.
  • (2) Lunge forward.
  • (3) Once you’re at the bottom, powerfully complete a shoulder press.
  • (4) Hold for 1s and slowly lower the weights.
  • (5) Press your body back up to a standing position. Continue to alternate legs.

Pro Tip: Only use 1 dumbbell (in the hand that’s opposite the lunging leg). It puts A LOT of pressure directly on the obliques and the side of the core.



Lunge Variation 5: Dumbbell Side Lunges

dumbbell side lunges, lunge variations, lunges, lunge, dumbbell lunges, lunge exercises, different lunges, dumbbell lunge, advanced lunges

How to:

Video Demo — Dumbbell Side Lunges


Side Lunges are a great way to develop lateral power, explosiveness, and flexibility. If you play sports, these are a must-do.

  • (1) Stand tall with two light dumbbells. Take a large step to the left and squat down laterally until your left thigh is parallel with the floor. Extend your arms and touch the dumbbells against the ground. Try to keep your back straight (don’t arch it).
  • (2) Press through your butt and return back up to start. Repeat for the right side and continue to alternate.


Lunge Variations: 1-5 | 6-10

Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto

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  • How much should we do to make these exercise routines a full workout?

    • 15 intense sets is usually a nice wheelhouse for an intense leg workout (+/- a few depending on goals, time, specific areas of focus, etc.).

      This can vary tremendously, but 3-4 lunge and/or squat exercises makes a solid foundation (3-5 sets a pop). I’ll usually throw in specific calf and hamstring work around that (calf raises + romanian deadlifts, for example).

      As a sample, you could do: 4 sets Barbell Squats, 3 sets Goblet Squats, 3 sets Bulgarian Split Lunges, 3 sets Lunging Bicep Curls.

      Test different versions out and find your favorites. Everyone responds to specific exercises differently.

      • Thanks man… I’ll try this out this weekend! I really love the website too. I’ll help spread the word to my friends and family to get familiar with Lean It Up! It’s so helpful.

        • No problem, thanks a ton for stopping by — I appreciate it. We’ll have a full blown community page/forums and a shop up and running soon, too.

          If you ever have any content recos/things you’re curious about, let me know!

  • As an addition to your post Bryan I would like to mention the backwards lunge. This type of lunge is safer for beginners. Beginners can start with backwards lunge and then progress to the front lunge once they have mastered the movement. Also the backwards lunge is suitable for those who suffer from knee injuries.

    Backwards lunge is done in the same manner as the front lunge, except the movement goes in reverse. Start from the standing position and then take a big step backwards. Slowly lower your body bending at the knee that is positioned in the front.