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Cross Training For Runners

Lunges for Runners: Boost Performance and Prevent Injuries

9 Mins read

If you’re all about lunges, whether you’re rocking the weighted lunges, pulse lunges, or alternating lunges, then you’ve stumbled upon a goldmine of information right here. Prepare to dive deep into the world of lunges, my friend!

Now, let me share a little secret with you: lunges hold a special place in my heart. They’re like the rockstars of strength exercises, always delivering a powerful punch to your lower body.

I’m talking about the classic lunges, but wait, there’s more! I’ll unveil 10 amazing variations that will spice up your routine and target different areas of those mighty legs.

But here’s the exciting part: lunges are not just any ordinary exercise. They have a special connection with runners, making them an ideal addition to your training regimen. Why, you ask? Well, when you perform lunges, you’re stepping into a world of balance and single-leg motion—just like when you’re out there on the running track.

With every lunge, your body slightly tips the scales, shifting the focus onto one leg at a time. It’s a dynamic movement that mimics the very essence of running itself. Talk about functional training, right?

Are you ready? Let’s lunge our way to superior running performance!

What Do Lunges Work?

Get ready to uncover the incredible benefits that lunges bring to the table. These bad boys are not just your average exercise—oh no, they hold the power to transform you into a speed demon, all while keeping injuries at bay.

Let’s dive into the magnificent world of lunges and discover why they’re a runner’s best friend.

Strong Muscles

Imagine this: you’re out on a run, feeling the wind in your hair and the pavement beneath your feet. But wait, what’s that? It’s the whisper of stronger, more powerful legs calling your name. That’s right, my friend, lunges are the key to unlocking your full running potential.

These leg-strengthening wonders target your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes like nothing else. It’s like a symphony of muscles working together, harmoniously propelling your body forward. By building strength and power in these areas, you’ll be ready to unleash lightning-fast sprints and conquer the track like a true champion.

But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. You see, lunges have a secret weapon—balance. As you gracefully lunge forward, your body demands stability. Meet the glute minimus and glute medius, the unsung heroes of your lower body stability. Strengthening these muscles indirectly through lunges adds an extra layer of protection to your running journey.

Protect Against Injury

We all know that running can be tough on the body, especially when it comes to our precious knees. But fear not, for lunges are here to save the day. By strengthening the muscles surrounding your knees—hello, hamstrings, quads, and calves—you’re providing them with a suit of armor. It’s like placing a shield of strength around your knees, shielding them from the high-impact nature of running and reducing the strain placed upon them.

Balance & Coordination

Just like a tightrope walker gracefully glides across the thin wire, lunges are the secret to enhancing your single-leg balance. Think of it as a dance between your body and the ground, a delicate ballet that strengthens your stability muscles. By incorporating lunges into your routine, you’re building a fortress of stability, protecting yourself from the treacherous ankle sprains that may lurk around the corner.

But there’s more to lunges than meets the eye. They hold the key to unlocking the power of your stride. Imagine yourself as a gazelle, gracefully bounding through the wilderness. Lunges can help you increase your stride length, propelling you towards newfound speed and agility.

In fact, a study published in the prestigious “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” discovered the remarkable connection between lunges and improved running performance. They found that lunges, both the forward and jumping variations, can skyrocket hamstring strength and boost your running speed. It’s like unlocking a hidden gear within yourself, ready to take on any race or challenge that comes your way.

But wait, there’s more! Lunges aren’t just a fantastic exercise to include in your workout routine—they’re also a powerhouse warm-up tool. Before you dive into the intensity of your training session, lunges can ignite the fire within your hamstrings and quadriceps. They prepare your lower limbs for action, enhancing their function and getting your body temperature rising. It’s like revving up the engine of a sports car, getting it ready to hit the track with power and precision.


You’re on the go, traveling the world, and suddenly you feel the burning desire to squeeze in a workout. But wait, you’re in a cramped hotel room with limited equipment. Fear not, my friend, because lunges are here to save the day. They are the superheroes of convenience, the champions of adaptability.

The beauty of lunges lies in their practicality. They require minimal space and can be done almost anywhere. All you need is a clear area to unleash your lunging prowess and the motivation to push yourself. Whether you’re in a park, at home, or even in a hotel room with limited legroom, lunges have got your back.

But what if you’re just starting your fitness journey or have specific fitness needs? Fear not, for lunges are a versatile exercise that can be tailored to suit your unique requirements. They are scalable, meaning you can easily modify them to fit your fitness level. Feeling like a lunging warrior? Add some weights to challenge your muscles even more. Want to amp up the intensity? Increase the number of reps or widen your lunges for an extra burn. The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination and determination.

Similar to the endless creativity of artists, lunges, just like push-ups, squats, and planks, provide an endless canvas of possibilities. You can explore forward lunges, reverse lunges, walking lunges, side lunges, jumping lunges, and so much more. It’s like having a buffet of lunging goodness, ensuring that boredom is banished from your fitness journey.

The 10 Lunges Variations to Try

This post outline 9  types of lunges you can add to your strength cross training workouts.

That’s a lot of variations, but if you are like me then you surely realize that variety is the spice of life.

1. The Basic Lunge

This is the standard lunge.

Use this one to master proper lunge form and to target the hamstrings and glutes.

Proper Form

Assume an athletic position with feet hip width apart, back straight, core engaged.

Next, take an exaggerated step forward with your right foot, then lower your left knee within an inch of the floor.

Next, use the muscles of your left leg to pull yourself back up into the starting position, then continue forward alternating between the right and left leg.

Make sure to keep your upper body engaged but in a neutral position, just like when standing with a proper posture.

Allow for no forwards nor backward leaning.

And don’t twist either.

Embrace your core by pulling your belly button back toward your spine. Focus on reaching ahead of your body as you as possible while moving in a straight line the entire time.

Complete 12 lunges with each leg to complete one set.

2. Weighted Lunges


To make the basic lunge more challenging, add weights to it.

You can up the ante by using a set of challenging dumbbells, kettlebells or a loaded bar.

You can also use heavy gym bag or your kid, if they don’t mind.

Additional resource – The Myrtle routine

Proper Form

Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand with arms fully extended overhead.

If you are using a barbell, then to rest it across your upper back and have control over the weight the entire time.

Next, step forward into a deep lunge with your right leg, then drop deep into the lunge by bending both knees to a 90-degree angle.

Please, keep your chest up and torso upright throughout the movement.

No hinging forward is allowed.

Keep your core engaged the entire time to help you keep good form and protect your lower back.

Last up, bring your left leg forward and switch sides to complete one rep.

3. Jumping Lunges


Add a plyometric effect to your lunges by incorporating this powerful move into your training arsenal.

Jumping lunges are key for increasing explosive strength and endurance in your lower body, which can help you run faster, and more efficiently.

This is a high intensity exercises, so pace yourself and be careful.

Proper Form

Start in a basic lunge position with your right leg in front.

Next, lower down until your knees almost touches the floor, push through both feet then quickly explode upward so that your feet come together and switch your legs midair to end up in a lunge with your left leg in front.

Keep switching legs in this manner as fast as you can for one full minute to complete one set.

4. Backwards Lunges


This is the backward way of doing the basic lunge.

The backwards lunge emphasizes the quads and glutes more than any other muscle.

Proper Form

Assume an athletic position, then take a large and controlled step backwards with your right leg, landing on the ball of the foot, then bend both knees until they are bent at a 90-degree angle.

Lower your hips until your front thigh is parallel to the floor with the lead knee positioned directly over your ankle.

Make sure your left knee is over your left ankle.

Last up, extend your knees and hips and press back up to standing position, then switch sides.

Continue alternating legs for 24 reps total to complete one set.

Additional reading – How to Avoid Running Injury

5. Reverse Lunge and Kick


This one takes the above a variation a level higher and it’s great as a warm-up exercise as well.

Plus, it’s a great dynamic stretch for your hamstrings and hip flexors.

Proper Form

Stand tall with back straight and core engaged.

Then step back with your right foot coming into a deep lunge, and bending both knees to a 90-degree angle.

That’s your starting position.

Next, to perform this variation, shift your weight into the left foot and press your left heel into the floor as you push off with your right foot, kicking your right leg up and out in front you (like a kickboxing move) and touching your right toes to your left hand (if you can).

Last up, return to the lunge position in a slow and controlled manner.

Switch sides to complete one rep.

Aim for 12 reps to complete one set.

6. Lateral Lunges


Also known as the side lunge, this variation is key for building strength in the abductors and hip stabilizing muscles.

This move also improves flexibility in the hamstrings and hip flexors.

Proper Form

From a standing position, step your right foot directly out to you right side.

Next, bend your right knee and sit your hips back, while keeping your left leg extended, and both feet flat on the floor the entire time.

Focus on pushing your hips back as if going to sit down on a low chair and keep your foot flat on the ground the entire time.

Last, and with a smooth and effortless transition, press back up to starting posting by pushing with your right leg.

Then repeat on the other side.

Aim for 10 reps on each side to complete one set.

8. Lunge with Rear Leg raise


This variation ups the ante with your stability and balance while hitting hard the glutes and hamstrings.

Proper Form

Start by performing the standard lunge with your right leg forward.

Next, while engaging your core and extending your right leg, hinge forward at the hips and lift your back leg straight up until it’s parallel to the floor.

Make sure to form a straight line from your head to your left heel.

Last up, return to standing position and switch sides.

Aim for 8 reps on each side to complete one set.

9. Step-up and Lunge


This move will come in handy if you do any type of uphill running.

In fact, the step-up and lunge is one of the best runners oriented strength exercises that there is.

This move can also help you jump higher, sprint faster and build some serious muscles in your lower body.

To perform this variation, you will need a step or a box about mid-shin height.

Proper Form

Begin by stepping your right foot onto the box or step, while the left foot is firmly planted on the ground and stretched back into a lunge position.

Next, look forward, engage your core, push through your right heel, then stand all the way up and bring your leg left to a high knee.

Then move your leg back to starting position in slow and controlled manner and lower down into a deep lunge without wobbling.

Do 8 to 10 reps on each side to complete one set.

You can make this move more challenging by holding a dumbbell in each hand by your sides.

10. Pulse Lunges


This one is ideal if you are looking to build endurance in you all of your lower leg muscles without moving much.

The pulse can teach you a lot of keeping yourself in check and under control while you feel the burn.

Proper Form

Assume a standard lunge position with your right leg as the lead leg.

Next, begin pulsing by lowering down and up about 3 inches repeatedly until you have performed all reps.

If you are starting to feel the burn and legs start shaking during this exercise, then you are in the right place.

This is what’s supposed to happen.

Perform 16 to 20 pulses in the low position on each side to complete one set.


And that’s it for today. I hope you like the above 10 lunge variations. Just make sure to start doing them ASAP.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

David D.

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