How Low Should Your Lunges Really Be?

Lunges are one of the best exercises to strengthen the muscles in your legs. They are simple to do, don't require any special machines, and are more effective at targeting glutes and hamstrings than squats (via Livestrong). However, you'll only reap the benefits if you perform them correctly. One of the most important elements of a lunge is how low you drop your knees. Low lunges are difficult to perform, which is the whole point of the exercise. According to certified personal trainer and nutrition coach Jonathan Jordan, CPT, your knee should almost touch the ground during each lunge.

"In general, I tell clients to strive for a 90-degree bend in both the forward and back knee," Jordan said. "I tell them to try to get their back knee to 'almost kiss the floor' while keeping their front foot flat on the floor." Sure, dropping this low can feel brutal on your muscles, but you'll be thanking yourself later when you feel those quads, hamstrings, and glutes growing. If you struggle to get into a low lunge, you may be dealing with flexibility or mobility issues. Add plenty of stretching to your workout routine and consider other forms of exercise that can make you more flexible like yoga. As your mobility improves, your lunges will too.

Lunge variations to try

Although basic lunges are a great exercise, there are plenty of lunge variations to add to your workout routine. According to Self, variations of an exercise work muscles in a different way. Standard lunges, for example, are performed with a forward-and-back movement that targets the gluteus maximus, which is the largest muscle in your glutes. However, side lunges target the glute medius and glute minimus, which are muscles located on the outer sides of the glutes. Side lunges, or lateral lunges, are performed by moving your foot out to the side of your body instead of in front like a basic lunge.

Other lunge variations to try include reverse lunges and lunge jumps. Reverse lunges involve the same movement as a traditional lunge, but instead of stepping your foot forward, you will step it backward. It is important to keep your core stable during this movement. Lunge jumps are a more advanced move to try when you have mastered a basic lunge. Start in a full lunge with your knee almost touching the ground. Using both feet, jump into the air and land in the same lunge position. You can also switch legs in the air if you want. This lunge variation is a great way to get some cardio in with your leg-building exercise.