Leg Exercises

The Squat and Deadlift Sidekick

Complement the gold standard, lower-body moves with these walking lunge variations to build more strength and muscle.

barbell overhead lunge

You want to get strong and muscular legs? Do deadlifts and squats.

You want to improve speed and power? Do deadlifts and squats.

You want to lose body fat and get in great condition? Do deadlifts and squats.                      

For years this has been the basic, yet effective advise that many great trainers and coaches have preached. We all know that squats and deadlifts are the foundation of any sound strength based routine. I couldn't agree more with those statements. I too recommend many squat and deadlift variations to all of my clients. They construct the foundation of my routines for newbies and advanced athletes.

As of late, I have found myself thinking about what other lower-body exercises can complement the squat and the deadlift. Leg curls, glute/ham raises, kettlebell swings and plyos are all great exercises that provide great benefits. I use them every day at my facility. So what other lower-body exercise could I use to build strength and muscle? The walking lunge!

Expendables Workout - Walking Lunge

I have used walking lunges intermittently for many of my clients programs and my own as well over the past 13 years. But during the past year or two I found myself forgetting to use them. Maybe it's because they can be tough for people who have knee issues, and if overdone, can cause some anterior knee pain. Or maybe it was because we just didn't have the right space at my facility do them with group and semi-private training. Those reasons are no longer an issue. With the increased space at SOF (2,000 square feet of turf), and our regression and progression system in place, it is now time to bring back walking lunges.

Walking lunges provide a variety of benefits when done properly. There are many variations of loading this exercise, making it multi-functional. This movement pattern carries over into life and sport. I personally use it on a daily basis to pick up weights at the gym for clients, and when picking up my two young children.          

Quick Rules

Before you start to perform walking lunges, there are a few rules to follow.

  • If you have a previous knee issue, proceed with caution. If you are unable to reach a full range of motion (knee to floor) without pain, walking lunges may not be for you.
  • Do not add load until you can perform 10 walking lunges with each leg with full range of motion without pain.
  • Don't overdo them. Performing 3 sets of 20 reps each leg; 2-3 days a week should be plenty to reap the benefits without causing knee problems. In the end, it will depend on your training level.

Walking Lunge to Explosive Plate Overhead Press 

This is a walking lunge variation that I just started trying. I like the explosive portion of the movement. It's a full-body exercise that incorporates multiple movement patterns. This variation is perfect as a metabolic conditioning exercise.

Barbell Front Loaded Walking Lunge

Once you have tried the goblet hold, the bar front load is a great progression to move on to. I like this one for people who are doing Olympic lifts and front squats. You will get a tremendous quadriceps workout and improve your front squat hold (catch position) with a barbell. Two things that help you with your overhead pressing and Olympic lifts.

Barbell Overhead Walking Lunges 

Trying to carry any amount of weight over your head is demanding in itself. Adding walking lunges to the equation further enhances the difficulty of a loaded carry. Out of all the lunge variations I have shown you, this one is the hardest. Once you get to 45+ over your head for 10-20 reps, you will experience a huge metabolic demand. Choose your weight wisely so you're able to keep your arms in the lockout position the entire time.

Where Should You Include This Exercise In The Workout?

I primarily use walking lunge variations during metabolic conditioning circuits. That doesn't mean you can't use them as your primary lower-body movement during a workout. Any of these lunge variations can cause enough stimuli to help strengthen your lower-body and build muscle tissue. I would just use squat and deadlift variations as your primary lower-body exercise.

Go Lunging 

Now that you have some new lower-body exercise ideas, give them a shot and let me know how they work.

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