If lunges are part of your training routine, make sure you’re not committing these common lunge mistakes and get the most out of your training.
Walking dumbbell lunges are a solid lower body exercise that requires strength in the legs, balance, and a solid core. They work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, as well as your calf and core muscles.
Lunges are part of many training routines for athletes who not only want to strengthen their lower body, but also are seeking better balance, improve spinal health, core stability and hip flexibility.
Yet as with many exercises in the gym, athletes commit lunge mistakes left, right and centre. So, Dr Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and cofounder of Renaissance Periodization, breaks down the most common lunge mistakes and how to fix them.
These tips carry over to the other variations of the lunge, such as the barbell walking lunge or standing in place lunges.
10 most common lunge mistakes
- 10 most common lunge mistakes
- Coach and Sports Physiologists breaks down most common lunge mistakes
1 – Cutting depth
Not performing the full range of motion in the lunge by not going all the way down is one of the most common lunge mistakes athletes make.
However, muscles grow more when they are stretched through a long range of motion and more motor units are recruited this way too.
Fix it: proper lunge depth happens when the knee either touches the ground or comes very close to it. By gently touching the ground, you standardise your range of motion, just be careful and keep the movement under control.
2 – No standard range of motion
This mistake flows nicely from the last: not standardising your range of motion will prevent you from knowing when you’ve reached failure and when you’re improving.
Consistency for your repetitions is important not only to know you’re performing the right range of motion every time, but also to track your progress, so you’re able to compare sets and workouts.
Fix it: if you want to improve your strength and muscle growth, make sure all your reps look the same, from the start to the end of your set.
3 – Steps too short
While it’s important to have a standardised range of motion, if you’re committing lunge mistakes then fixing the previous error won’t take you far. One such mistake in the walking lunge is taking too short of a step.
This can cause discomfort in the knee, especially if you’re performing lunges with weights, and won’t recruit all the muscles you want to target.
Fix it: the ideal stepping length for lunges is different for everyone, but your steps should be long enough so that you at least feel a good stretch on your glutes, adductors, and quads, while at the same time keeping a stable front foot.
4 – Steps too long
Just as you can do too short steps, you can also overstep with your walking lunges. This will cause instability and reduce the amount of force you can produce as a result.
Fix it: lunge only so far that you have secure footing and balance is not an issue so you’re targeting the right muscles effectively.
5 – Uncontrolled descent
Not controlling your descents can not only damage your knees, but it’s essentially ineffective. The eccentric portion of an exercise contributes greatly to muscle growth, so doing dumbbell walking lunges with an uncontrolled descent will only get the reps done but won’t grow your muscles effectively.
Additionally, you’ll want stability on both your legs especially as loads get heavy, and an uncontrolled descent can increase injury risk.
Fix it: expose your muscles to the stress of walking lunges both of on the concentric and the eccentric portion of the exercise. Take about 2 seconds to descend all the way down, in control.
6 – Tilting forward
Tilting forward on the lunge is one of the most common dumbbell lunge mistakes. This happens especially when you reach the bottom of the lunge, people tilt forward so they can use their back and hamstrings more.
However, the posterior chain and hamstrings are not the muscles you want to target with the walking lunge.
Don’t just get the work done, but use the right musculature to do so.
Fix it: keep the upper body upright and still, especially towards the bottom of the lunge. Bracing your core can help with this.
7 – Carrying the leg through
This isn’t necessarily a mistake but a common misconception. It is not necessary to carry your leg all the way through with every lunge, without pausing in the middle. In fact, joining your feet together at the start of the lunge can help you regain balance, reset, and ensure you perform the exercise with the right form.
Fix it: resetting after every lunge is not cheating and in fact is encouraged, as you can carry heavier loads this way. More reps with better technique, what’s not to love.
8 – Letting grip limit you
Dumbbell lunges are a great exercise if you don’t let your grip be a limiter. At some point, your glutes, quads, and adductors are likely to be stronger and have greater endurance than your grip. The reason you stop doing lunges should be because your glutes are on fire, not your hands.
Fix it: when you reach that stage, include straps or grips, or chalk your hands. Otherwise, switch to barbell lunges so the weight simply rests on your back, this way you can continue to improve.
9 – Choosing the wrong dumbbell weight
Repetitions and load are both important for hypertrophy. There’s an ideal range that will allow you to perform a certain number of reps with good form while also giving you enough of a stimulus. Going too light or too heavy can mean there’s not a robust enough response for muscle growth stimulus from training.
Fix it: Choose a weight that will allow you to perform more than around 10 but less than around 35 lunges in one set without taking breaks.
10 – Not working the target muscles
We’ve slightly touched on this lunge mistake in the previous points, but it’s worth reiterating: you should feel the target muscles work (and be the limiting factor) when you do lunges. These are your glutes, hamstrings, and adductor muscles.
Fix it: fix your technique and use the right load. Experiment and follow all the tips to fix common lunge mistakes laid out above.