Benefits of the Kettlebell Lunges
Kettlebell lunges will build you some strong legs and glutes, improve your single-leg strength, which is beneficial for many athletic activities (martial arts, running, football, tennis, you name it) and core stability, and help you develop hip mobility, which is essential for a long, healthy and fun life.
Since you move one leg at a time, they also improve your coordination and balance, as well as, yeah, the notorious proprioception, aka your ability to be aware where all your body parts are and how they move in relation to each other and the world around it at any given moment.
Muscles Worked in the Kettlebell Lunges
The muscles worked in the kettlebell lunges will slightly vary from variation to variation, but the essence remains the same, namely: your legs – glutes, hams, quads and thigh adductors (the muscles responsible for moving your legs back towards your body's midline). They will also contribute to building your calves and your core.
Kettlebell Lunge Form
Let's start with the basic version of the kettlebell lunge: kettlebell static lunge.
In this description, we will demonstrate the racked lunge, where you support the kettlebell in the racked position, at your chest level.
1. Start with your feet about shoulder-width apart. The kettlebell is resting on the floor in front of you.
2. Clean the bell to the rack position (if you need to refresh your memory, see Kettlebell Clean).
3. Take a wide step forward with one leg.
Important: Place your working foot in line with the same hip – not with the opposite foot (to avoid a too narrow stance).
4. From here, drive your forward heel into the ground and lower your back knee – so that it ends up directly under your hips, and both your knees are bent at approximately a 90-degree angle.
Keep your core facing forward and tight, do not twist or fall over or on either side. Look straight ahead, keep your spine neutral, your chest high, your shoulder blades packed into your upper back.
5. Drive the knee down until it has touched the ground. Some techniques allow not touching the ground with your rear knee; however, we advise to lower it all the way.
6. At the bottom of the lunge, your shoulders are over your hips, and your hips are over your back knee.
7. From here, squeeze your buttocks and drive your front heel firmly into the ground – to start ascending back into the starting position.
8. Stand all the way up, straighten both legs, lock your knees and tuck your tailbone.
9. Repeat with the other leg.
Breathing tip: if you wanna be able to go for multiple reps, it is a good idea to keep your oxygen levels adequate. So, inhale before the descent, and exhale as you go down; then, inhale again, and exhale as you go up.
Frequent Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
1. Rocking forward to stand up. When getting up from a lunge, drive up through the foot and try to stand up in as straight, vertical path as possible. Do not rock forward to "help" yourself.
2. Pointing your feet at an angle. Aim to point your feet straight ahead – to prevent your ankle from rolling in, and your foot arch and knee from collapsing inward.
3. Leaning forward and rounding shoulders. Throughout the movement, do not let your hips collapse, your lower back arch and your torso lean forward. Keep your tailbone tucked underneath.
4. Feet too close. If you take a short step, and your feet end up too close in relation to each other, your front knee will pass your toes, and your legs might angle in weird – not the most useful and healthy – ways. Allow enough distance between your front and rear legs – so that both knees are bent at an approximately 90-degree angle at the bottom of the lunge.
5. Feet too narrow. If you start your front or reverse lunge with a very narrow stance, you are likely to crossover on the descent – as if you were walking on a tightrope. Which you hopefully aren't. To fix that, start your lunges with a shoulder-width stance and, as you step forward or backward, place your working foot in line with the same hip – not with the opposite foot.
6. Too fast. Many will hop through their lunges without thinking, because lunges look oh-so-simple. OK, they are not rocket science. However, remember: your health is on the line. And when you pace through lunges – or, for that matter, through any movements – too fast, without taking time to learn, you risk compromising the form and, eventually, injury. Start slow, control your movement, learn the form, and speed up later (if you need to).
Kettlebell Lunge Variations
Kettlebell Reverse Lunge
To perform the kettlebell reverse lunge, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, hold the kettlebell in the desired position (suitcase, goblet or racked – for beginners, overhead – for more advanced lifters), and step back. In the bottom position, shift slightly back – to prevent you from falling forward on your ascent. To get back up, tuck your tailbone, squeeze the glute of your rear leg, and drive vertically up through your front heel – to your starting position.
Important: remember to point both of your feet straight ahead, so that your foot falls neither inwards nor outwards.
Try to avoid a position where, at the bottom of the lunge, your knee passes over your toes. If you find yourself in this position, you need to adjust (widen) your stance. When your rear knee is down on the ground, your forward shin should be perpendicular to the floor.
Kettlebell Forward Lunge
As for the previous versions, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and hold the kettlebell in the desired position. From here, step forward, touch the rear knee to the ground (bend your front knee to 90 degrees and drop your rear leg to 90 degrees), then drive up through your front foot and return to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg.
We advise going all the way down and putting the rear knee on the ground, rather than stopping halfway and keeping it in the air – because it will protect your front knee from going over your toes and lifting the front heel.
Kettlebell Forward to Reverse Lunge
You can also combine the two former lunge versions – kettlebell reverse lunge and kettlebell forward lunge – into one single, complex movement: kettlebell forward to reverse lunge. Before you do it, be sure to have mastered those two separate versions.
Kettlebell Lateral Lunge
In addition to your glutes, hams and quads, the kettlebell lateral lunge, or kettlebell side lunge, will also work the inner sides of your thighs (the mega-important adductors), which are often overlooked in other big movements (squats, deadlifts), yet are vital for stabilizing your hips, knees, lower back and core.
To perform the kettlebell lateral lunge, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight, and clean the bell into the racked position. From here, take a wide step to the side and sink your hips back. Keep going down – until the knee of your working leg is at around a 90-degree angle. Keep your other leg straight and keep your torso as upright as possible. From the bottom of the lunge, push back up with your working foot and return to the starting position.
Important: keep both heels on the floor at all times. Both feet should remain parallel to each other and point straight throughout the movement. Do not allow the knee of your moving leg to cave in. Also make sure that you do not slouch at the bottom of the lunge: keep your spine neutral and chest up; do not twist your core to either side.
Safety tip: As you start learning this movement, be careful to warm up thoroughly and not sit down too deep at the first reps. This side lunging movement is pretty uncommon in everyday life, and you might be lacking hip mobility and flexibility. Don't worry: it will come with practice.
Kettlebell Suitcase Lunge
In this version, you will be holding the kettlebell(s) by your side, by its handle, like a suitcase. Apart from other lunging benefits, it will work your grip, which comes handy both with heavy grocery bags and with other strength training (e.g. deadlifts).
From here, perform the luges: whether static, reverse or forward.
Kettlebell Goblet Lunge
For the kettlebell goblet lunge, you can use either the bottom-up or the bottom-down kettlebell hold variation.
In the bottom-up kettlebell hold position, hold the kettlebell by its horns, at about your chest level. Your elbows are bent at about a 90-degree angle and glued to your torso.
In the bottom-down position, support the kettlebell by the bottom with both arms, keeping your forearms and elbows together. The kettlebell should rest at the level of your head, so that your eyes are looking through the "window" (the kettlebell handle).
From here, perform the luges: whether static, reverse, forward or lateral.
Kettlebell Overhead Lunge
This is an advanced version of a kettlebell lunge as it will require you to balance a heavy object over your head while performing a very technical movement with your legs. Before you try this variation, be sure to have mastered other lunge versions and kettlebell press.
To perform this movement, clean and press the bell overhead (see Kettlebell Clean and Press). From here, perform the luges: whether static, reverse or forward.