Like the barbell squat, the barbell lunge recruits all the major muscle groups of the lower body. The quadriceps are recruited to extend the leg, the glutes and hamstrings work to extend the hip and stabilise the rear leg, and the calves assist as the athlete forcefully extends the front leg to return the standing position.
Lunging with a barbell is quite a difficult exercise to master, and athletes may find it easier to first execute the lunge with a set of dumbbells which offer greater balance. As a general rule of thumb, the knee of the front leg should not travel past the toes; otherwise the knee joint can be potentially placed in an injurious position. The torso would remain upright throughout the lunge.
The lunge is an effective all-round lower body exercise, targeting the quadriceps (which extend the leg), hamstrings and glutes (both of which are responsible for extending the hip). The core is also engaged during the exercise, stabilising and supporting the trunk.
The lunge can be performed without any additional weight, and this may be the best option for those who are new to the exercise. Learning the movement and developing the necessary balance without any added resistance will place the athlete in a good position when progressing onto the dumbbell or barbell lunge.
Out of the barbell and dumbbell lunge variations, the dumbbell version is somewhat easier to execute due to the lower centre of gravity from grasping the dumbbells down by the side. The barbell is less forgiving and requires a degree of coordination and balance to execute.
This profile discusses performing the dumbbell lunge from a standing position, with the athlete extending the front leg after the lunge to return back to the same spot. This may be the only option if you are training within a confined space, but another alternative if you have the necessary room is to perform the walking lunge, where the athlete continues to lunge forward with alternating legs.