Walking Lunges Ultimate Guide

In this article we have detailed out the most complete walking lunge exercise guide for lifters of all levels and sports. We will discuss walking lunge variations, muscles worked, provided exercise demonstrations, and offer valuable insight on to why you should be doing them!

Walking Lunge Variations

Below are five common lunge variations that can be done with most lifters to increase leg strength, balance, coordination, muscular hypertrophy, and performance. All lunge variations can be performed with any type(s) of equipment or training means. For example, the dumbbell lunge, overhead barbell walking lunge, or front loaded kettlebell reverse lunge, just to name a few.

Standard Walking Lunge

The walking lunge is a basic unilateral movement done with the lifter performing multiple front lunges in succession of one another, with or without weight. Below are some more popular (and advanced) styles of walking lunges.

Front Rack Walking Lunge

The front rack walking lunge refers to any style of walking lunge done with the load (barbell, kettlebell, etc) in the front rack position. Like the front squat, this position places the loading slightly in front of midline, increasing the demands upon the quadriceps, core, and back to remain in an upright position.

Back Rack Walking Lunge

The back rack walking lunge refers to any type of walking lunge done with loading placed upon the back, with the most common style being the barbell walking lunge. The barbell is placed upon the upper back/trap, similar to that of the back Squat, which allows for even disbursement of the load across the entire body and legs; resulting in great loads being moved.

Overhead Walking Lunge

The overhead walking lunge entails a lifter to place a load overhead (barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells, etc) in a secured position while performing standard walking lunges. The overhead position of the load increases the need for shoulder mobility/stability, correct spinal positioning, and enforces a strict vertical torso in the lounge; all of which can result in increased core strength, upper back strength, and hip/knee integrity when done correctly.

Asymmetrically Loaded Walking Lunge

Any type of asymmetry can be included here, such as uneven loading of an object (one kettlebell heavier than the other), unbalanced farmers carry while walking, etc. This places a greater demand on the core and hips to stabilize against rotational forces to maintain proper spinal and hip alignment and tracking. This can be a great movement to help pattern proper mechanics for some lifters who swivel or twist at the bottom of the squat/lunge.

Muscles Worked

Below are the muscle groups involved with the walking lunge movement. Note that many of the variations above target slightly different muscle groups based in the positioning of the barbell and style of walking lunge. Nonetheless, these are some of the key muscle groups targeted.

  • Quadriceps
  • Gluteals
  • Hamstrings
  • Vastus Medialis Obliquus (VMO)
  • Soleus and Gastrocnemius

Benefits of Walking Lunges

Below is a listing of the benefits walking lunges can offer athletes of all sports. You can read a more comprehensive benefits article here.

  1. Unilateral Balance and Coordination

Walking lunges are a great way to increase unilateral coordination, balance, and muscular balance with athletes who train bilateral movements (squats, pulls, etc) primarily (and all of the athletes too)! Depending on the type of variation selected, increases in balance, coordination, and mobility may be affected more than others and/or target slightly different body parts.

  1. Greater Glute Activation

Lunges are a great movement to target the gluteus maximus (and minimus), which is critical to hip and knee stability, strength, and squat performance. Longer steps and deeper ranges of motion can also increase gluteal engagement, so pay attention to step distances and ensure proper ranges of motion.

  1. Correct Muscular Imbalances and Asymmetries

In the event you have someone you may suspect has movement asymmetries and muscle imbalances, such as they have issues with one leg, are recovering from injury, or show signs of hip shifting and/or muscle size differences; walking lunges can be a viable training option to address such issues.Focusing on proper technique and muscle development is key to help bulletproof your athlete’s movement both in the gym and on the field.

  1. Muscle Hypertrophy

Walking lunges are a great way to increase muscle hypertrophy, as the deeper ranges of motion, vast array of angles and variations available, and constant tension on the muscle can really cause some metabolic disturbances. Longer strides will target the glutes and hamstrings, while shorted strides and more vertical torsos will increase quadriceps involvement.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this ultimate walking lunge guide helpful as you explore the world of walking lunges and the numerous variations available to you to increase your fitness, strength, and performance.

Featured Image: @fredshaka23 on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.