Walking Lunges in Your Workout – What, Why, How, and When

7 min read Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis
Written by
Chris Zibutis
Head Running Coach - that one person on earth who loves interval runs 🥵

Tired of static lunges? Take your workout to the next level with walking lunges.

Lunges are a single-leg bodyweight exercise you can perform anywhere: at home, in the park, on the trail, in a hotel room when you travel.

Walking lunges are a popular variation of static lunges that stretch out your hamstrings and glutes, improve your balance and core strength, and strengthen your lower body.

Lunge exercises are some of the most effective functional exercises for beginners and intermediate runners. Read on to learn more.

How to Do Walking Lunges

A lunges workout doesn’t take long. It’s not hard either. It’s great as an intermediate-level exercise, but beginners can do it too. You can adapt its frequency to your training goals.

If you’re already familiar with static lunges, doing walking lunges shouldn’t be too hard. Here are all the step-by-step instructions you need to do walking lunges correctly.

Level: Intermediate

Repetitions: 10–12 per side

Sets: 2–3

  1. Stand up with your feet at hip distance and your hands on your hips. Your torso and back should be straight, your chin up, and your core engaged.
  2. Take a wide step forward. Put the weight into your heel.
  3. Bend your knee and lower it down until it’s parallel to the floor to enter the lunge position. Stop before your lowered knee touches the floor.
  4. Pause to maintain the lunge position for a moment.
  5. Without moving the leg, bring the other foot forward to repeat the previous lunge movement.
  6. Repeat the movement, alternating the legs and walking forward as you lunge.
  7. On the last rep for each set, bring your back foot to meet your front foot.

Tip: The more open space you have, the easier it is to do walking lunges in succession.

Variations of Walking Lunges

Once you feel comfortable doing simple walking lunges, or if you’re in great shape already, you can try some variations.

Popular variations include weighted lunges such as dumbbell lunges and barbell lunges, lunge twists, elevated lunges, backward lunges, and bench lunges.

But keep in mind that these require better balance and more core strength than plain single leg lunges or alternating lunges. Progress to them gradually to reduce your risk of injury.

Let’s take a closer look at the most effective variations of walking lunges.

Reverse walking lunge

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Repetitions: Up to 12 reps per leg

Sets: 2–3

Steps:

  1. Stand straight with hands by your sides and your core engaged.
  2. Take a large step backward with one leg and bend both knees into the lunge position. Your legs should form a straight angle.
  3. Stand back up and step backward with your other foot.
  4. Continue to walk backward with each new lunge.
  5. Repeat with each leg for the total number of reps.
  6. Bring your legs together and stand straight to pause between reps.

Walking lunge with torso twist

You’ll need: Free weight or medicine ball

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Repetitions: Up to 12 reps per side

Sets: 1–3

Steps:

  1. Hold the weight or ball in front of you at chest level with both hands while bending your elbows at a right angle.
  2. Begin in the usual walking lunge position with your back straight and feet at hip distance. Engage your core.
  3. Step forward with your leg and bend the knee as your foot touches the ground and lower down so that your knee is parallel to the floor.
  4. Maintain the position for a moment.
  5. Holding the weight still, twist your upper body to the right from the torso.
  6. Twist your torso back and lunge forward with your other leg and repeat the movement.
  7. Walk forward as you lunge and twist.

Walking lunges with weight

You’ll need: Two dumbbells or barbells

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Repetitions: Up to 12 reps per leg

Sets: 2–3

Steps:

  1. Grab a set of dumbbells in each hand. Hold your arms at your sides.
  2. Stand with your torso and back straight.
  3. Step forward with one leg while keeping your arms relaxed at your sides.
  4. Bend your knee and lower your other leg to the floor in the classic bodyweight walking lunge position. When your back knee almost touches the floor, hold the position for a second.
  5. Move your other foot forward, repeating the movement with the other leg.
  6. Repeat alternating the legs, walking forward as you lunge.

Note: The same steps you do for dumbbell walking lunges apply to other weighted walking lunges too. If you use barbells, position the bar across your trapezius muscles between your shoulder blades at the top of your back.

Kettlebell overhead walking lunge

You’ll need: Light kettlebells

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Repetitions: Up to 12 reps per leg

Sets: 1–3

Steps:

  1. Hold the kettlebell in one hand.
  2. Stand straight with your back straight and core engaged, your feet at shoulder distance.
  3. Raise your arms and press the kettlebell overhead, fully extending your arms.
  4. Take a step forward into the lunge position and hold it for a moment, keeping your body stable, so you don’t fall.
  5. Bring your other leg through to perform a walking lunge.

Note: You can also do an overhead walking lunge variation with one kettlebell to make the exercise more challenging. It will challenge your balance and work your core even more. When using one kettlebell, simply extend your free arm to the side so that it forms a 90-degree angle with your raised arm.

Safety and Precautions

Walking lunges require coordination and balance. You have to do them carefully, or you may pull a muscle or lose your balance and fall. Be extra careful when using weights.

Here are some safety tips:

  • If you’re just getting into shape, start with static lunges and then slowly progress to walking lunges and variations.
  • Warm up with simple stretches and other easy warm-up routines before doing lunges.
  • If you don’t trust your balance yet, try lunges in your room or on the grass rather than on the street or another cemented or paved surface.
  • Step out wide enough so that you don’t risk knee injuries.
  • Keep your back straight and chin up throughout the exercise.
  • If you suffer from knee pain, do step-ups instead to avoid straining your knees. Step-ups work the same muscles as walking lunges.

Common Mistakes

Now let’s look at some common walking lunges mistakes and how you can avoid them. Don’t slack off on the form, or you won’t work your muscles properly and increase the risk of injury.

Taking steps that are too long

Walking lunges require wide steps – wider than your normal steps. But you still want to watch out for overstriding, which will make the stretch uncomfortable.

Solution: Aim for a step of about two feet forward from the back foot. Both knees should be close to forming a right-angle as you hold the lunge for a moment before switching to the other leg.

Front knee alignment

The front knee and the toes should stay aligned. Letting your front knee cave inward as you lunge is rushing the exercise, and you don’t want that. It can cause injury or make existing knee pain worse.

Solution: Lower your back knee slowly to the ground. To prevent the front knee from shifting inward as you stand, engage your glutes and hips to realign the knee and toes.

Leaning forward from the hips

The momentum of moving forward to perform walking lunges may make your torso lean forward. But this can hurt your lower back and disengage your core.

Solution: Begin with your chest straight, chin up, and core engaged, and perform the lunges more slowly. Pause for a moment between each lunge at the point of maximum stretch, rather than following the momentum of a forward lean to speed up the set.

Feet too close together while stepping

Good feet placement is key for proper form. Place your feet too close, and you may lose your balance and break form or fall.

Solution: Keep your feet at hip distance apart for optimal stability. Also, make sure your step feels natural.

Lifting the front heel while lunging

When you lift the front heel as you bend, you strain your knee while also misaligning your front leg. The correct way to do a walking lunge is to keep the front heel firmly planted on the floor until you bring your back leg forward.

Solution: Do the exercise more slowly, paying attention to your heel at the top and bottom of each lunge. Make sure that your front knee doesn’t become misaligned with your toes.

What Muscles Are Worked?

Walking lunges are great for strengthening your lower body because they work all the main muscles there. Walking lunges work the following muscles:

Plus, lunges also work your abs by engaging your core.

Benefits of Walking Lunges

More than working your muscles, walking lunges have some notable benefits. Walking lunges boost flexibility and functionality, strengthen legs, and more. Let’s take these one at a time.

Tip: If you’re wondering how to stay in shape while you travel, walking lunges can be part of the answer. You can do them without equipment in your hotel room or just about anywhere you can find a bit of space.

Increased range of motion

Tight hamstrings and hip muscles? Loosen them up with walking lunges.

Walking lunges are one of the exercises that activate these muscles and boost hip flexibility.

Improving your hip flexibility is great if you run frequently as it improves your balance and posture.

Boosted functionality

Functional exercises like walking lunges replicate everyday movements by working the same muscles. By doing so, they boost functionality.

For example, stepping forward to pick something that’s fallen can become easier once walking lunges become part of your workout.

Strengthened butt

According to the same source cited above, walking lunges are good if you want to tone the gluteal muscles. To put it simply, you’ll be strengthening your butt. This can improve your running speed, too.

Strengthened legs

Stronger legs can make you a better runner by improving your movement and reducing the risk of injury so you can train consistently. Walking lunges work your quads, hamstrings, and calves effectively.

Improved core strength and stability

When done right, lunges also engage your core and improve core stability. A strong, stable core will make it easier to have a good posture when running. It will also reduce your risk of injuries.

Improved balance

Walking lunges can improve balance. Balance is important during everyday movements and especially when running. It can help you recover when tripped or when falling to minimize injuries. It contributes to a better running posture overall.

Symmetrical toning

Another reason to do walking lunges is that they can aid symmetrical toning. An asymmetrical body means some muscles have to work harder than others. When muscles on both sides of your body are close to symmetrical, your muscles work together as one unit.

Provided rest for the spine

Last but not least, walking lunges can provide rest for the spine. If your spine is under constant strain because of sitting and other reasons, it may impact your running performance.

Incorporating Walking Lunges Into Your Workouts

Walking lunges can be part of a full-body strength workout or an as-many-reps-as-possible (AMRAP) workout. They can be integrated into a lower body challenge workout that helps you develop muscles you may otherwise neglect. And you can also add walking lunges to a high-intensity interval training plan.

You can do walking lunges 2–3 times a week for optimal results or according to your personalized plan. There are many more variations you can try if you want to up the difficulty, from jumping lunges to lunges with a bicep curl. Don’t shy away from exploring them.

Takeaways

In the end, here are the things you want to remember:

  • Walking lunges are a more advanced variation on the static lunge. They work your hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and core and improve your lower body strength, balance, and flexibility.
  • You can do them anywhere, even if you don’t have much open space around you.
  • While you can do walking lunges every day, it’s best to do them 2–3 times a week.
  • Do up to 3 sets of walking lunges in a day to maximize the benefits of this exercise while avoiding overtraining and injury.
  • Walking lunges can make your thighs and butt bigger because they work both muscle groups.
  • Don’t do walking lunges with weights until you feel comfortable with simple walking lunges, or you may risk injury.

Whether you’ve done walking lunges before or not, try them next time you work out.

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