The dumbbell lunge is an effective exercise for the lower body. It works the muscles in the upper leg and buttock, and can be done with or without weights. This functional exercise can be incorporated into any lower body strength routine or circuit training workout.

How to Do a Dumbbell Lunge

A weight that will allow you to complete your chosen exercise sets is all you need for this. You will also need an area where you can take one big step.

If you’re new to exercise, start with a lightweight.

Squeeze your shoulder blades together. This is your starting position. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, and your feet a little less than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should face your thighs (hammer grip) and your arms should hang at your sides. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to get into your starting position.

  1. Inhale and take a big step forward with your right leg, landing on the heel.
  2. Bend at the knee until the right thigh approaches parallel to the ground. The left leg is bent at the knee and balanced on the toes while in the lunge position.
  3. Step the right foot back on an exhale to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the motion with the left leg.

Lunges with weights can be difficult to balance. If you have trouble keeping your balance, start by doing the exercise without weights. This will help you learn the proper form. Also, don’t lift your rear foot too high onto your toes until you get a feel for this exercise. With practice, you will improve.

Benefits of Dumbbell Lunges

The main target muscles of the lunge are the quadriceps (front of the thigh). One of the four quad muscles, the rectus femoris, also acts as a hip flexor, drawing your torso toward your thigh.

The quad muscles are responsible for straightening the knee and helping to keep the kneecap in place. Having healthy quads can improve your balance and mobility. These muscles are used when cycling, climbing stairs, and walking (particularly uphill).

This exercise is more functional because it works out several stabilizer muscles at once. These include the gluteus maximus, adductor magnus, and soleus.

Athletes who participate in sports that require running should focus on strengthening their quads to maintain a balance with their hamstrings. The lunge, as a weight-bearing exercise, can help with bone health.

Combat Strength and Muscle Asymmetries

Working on one leg at a time is very important for developing both legs evenly and for increasing strength. Having stronger muscles on one side can lead to plateauing or injury.

Increase Hypertrophy

Dumbbell lunges are a great exercise for targeting your lower body and potentially increasing muscle growth. Altering the variations, tempos, and training schemes (reps and sets) can help boost muscle growth even further.

Increase Knee and Hip Stability to Boost Injury Prevention

Injuries often occur when there is a lack of symmetry in the way you move your body. This can be due to bad form when exercising, or from favoritism towards one side when performing bilateral exercises. Exercises such as dumbbell lunges help improve your coordination, balance, and performance on one side, thereby preventing injuries.

Improve Sports Performance 

Lunging in different directions (side, reverse, walking, diagonal, etc.) is necessary for improving joint mobility, coordination, and movement development. Doing this will help you develop a better sense of where your body is and how it moves in space, which will be beneficial for whichever sport you play.

Other Variations of the Dumbbell Lunge

The dumbbell lunge can be done with lighter weights to make it more accessible for beginners or done with heavier weights to provide a way to progress as you become stronger.

No Weights for Beginners

To practice the stepping lunge, first do it without any weights. This will help you get the form correct, especially if you have trouble with balance. Once you have the form down, you can add light weights. If you can do the exercise correctly with the added weight, you can increase the amount of weight you are using.

Longer Steps

If you want to focus on your quadriceps, take shorter steps. If you want to also exercise your gluteus maximus, take longer steps. Keep your upper body straight and your core engaged when taking longer steps.

Weight Placement Changes

The lunge can also be done while holding dumbbells at the front of the shoulders, or with a barbell on the shoulders, behind the neck. These are more advanced versions and should only be attempted if you are confident in your balance.

Dumbbell Walking Lunge

You can do a variation of the lunge where you walk instead of returning to a standing position. You bring the rear leg forward into another lunge and continue this pattern around the room.

Dumbbell Lunge With Biceps Curl

Use dumbbells to do bicep curls while in a lunge position. To do it, step forward into a lunge, while curling the weight up, lower the weight, then return to standing.

Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge (aka the drop lunge) is a good way to work your hamstrings and glutes, especially if you take a big step back. This forces you to use your hamstrings and glutes to control the lowering phase and help with the upwards phase.

Muscles Worked by the Dumbbell Lunge

The dumbbell lunge is an exercise that uses multiple joints to build the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. During the movement, the knees and hips flex and extend, which trains those muscle groups.


The glutes work hard during a lunge to keep the knee stable. They also help the hip extend when standing up. The deeper the lunge, the more the glutes are used.


The quadriceps muscles are responsible for extending the knee. When you lunge, your knee bends and goes into flexion, which causes tension on the quadriceps. If you want to target the quadriceps more effectively, make sure to go all the way down in the lunge. This can help build stronger, healthier knees in the process.


The hamstrings are used more when you take longer strides and go deeper in the lunge.

Who Should Do the Dumbbell Lunge

If you want to build stronger, more muscular legs, dumbbell lunges are a great way to do it. This is because lunges are a unilateral exercise, which can help address any muscle imbalances between your legs. Additionally, lunges help increase your overall leg strength, which can be beneficial for things like sports performance, everyday life, and moving around in general.

Strength and Functional Fitness Athletes

The dumbbell lunge is a great exercise to improve muscle and strength imbalances. This is especially important for symmetry and avoiding injury when lifting heavier weights.

You can use dumbbells for a more effective lunge and also build more muscle growth and leg strength. By adding weight to your routine, you will be able to get a tough leg workout in with less weight, making it easier to recover from.

Regular Gymgoers

The lunge is an extremely beneficial movement for the average gymgoer that can help with many common everyday activities. Being able to lunge without pain is crucial for things like moving around easily and avoiding knee pain or other mobility issues.

Dumbbell Lunge Sets and Reps

Adding the dumbbell lunge to your current lower body routine could result in serious muscle growth and improved bilateral lifts like squats. Lunges also offer the opportunity to build both mobility and stability while helping prevent injury.

To Build Muscle Mass

The lunge is a great exercise for building bigger legs, specifically the glutes and hamstrings. When trained in moderate rep ranges, or even higher rep ranges, you can build muscle mass, increase muscle endurance, and help improve joint mobility and stability.

You should start by doing three to five sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, using moderate to heavy loads. OR you should do two to four sets of 15 to 25 repetitions, using moderate loads, until you near failure. Keep rest periods between 45 and 90 seconds.

You can build muscle by lifting weights with a higher or moderate number of repetitions. The key thing is to lift the weights until you nearly or reach failure, especially if the weights are lighter.

To Increase Strength

If you want to increase your unilateral leg strength, you can train using heavy dumbbells. However, if you are a strong lifter, carrying the dumbbells may become difficult, even with straps. If this happens, it may be better to switch to barbell lunges, rather than letting the dumbbells limit your leg strength.

You should do three to five sets of five to 10 repetitions, resting as needed, with heavy weights. You could do three to five reps per leg with even heavier weights, but make sure you build up to it and have enough time to recover between sets.

Do lunges in an area where you can safely drop the weights if you need to.

Common Mistakes

There are some errors that you need to be aware of that could lead to injury or make the exercise less effective.

Knee Extending Past Toes

Keep your forward leg’s knee from going past your toes as you bend it, or you might hurt your knee.

Leaning Forward

You should lunge with a straight back and an upright torso. If you start to lean forward or round your back, lessons your abs before taking another step. Use lighter weights or no weight until you can lunge correctly.

Knee Misalignment

Your back knee should be in line with your body and pointing at the floor when you are at the bottom of the lunge. If you have balance problems or lack flexibility in your hip flexors or quads, your knee might turn outward or inward.

If you are using incorrect form when doing lunges, this can cause knee pain. To fix this, try shorten your stance until you are able to do the lunge correctly.

Improper Stance

The distance between your feet while performing a lunge can affect the stability and efficacy of the move. If your feet are too close together, more force will be placed on your knees. If they are too far apart, you will not be able to bend your back leg as much.finding the right distance.

Safety and Precautions

1. Do not do the dumbbell lunge if you have pelvic instability issues or an ankle injury. 2. If you have a knee or hip problem, do shallow lunges instead of deep lunges and use lighter weights. 3. Keeping the knee from extending past the toes is vital to preventing injury.

If you experience pain in your joints while doing this exercise, stop immediately. The dumbbell lunge requires balance, so it may not be suitable during the third trimester of pregnancy. If you’re pregnant and still want to try this exercise, make sure to keep one hand in contact with a wall for extra stability.

Begin with a few repetitions until you are stronger in your quads. After that, do two or three sets of eight to twelve lunges.


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Rhoda is an award-winning dietitian, mature age model, and CEO of Sayvana Women.  

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