Lunges can be a little scary, especially if you're like many of us and have balance issues. So consider this your permission slip to "cheat" a little as you work your way up to doing the perfect lunge. Fitness expert Tosca Reno, author of the new book "The Start Here Diet," says using a stationary object for balance, such as a chair, is a great way to get yourself ready for doing full-on lunges.
What it does
Lunges are great lower-body toners. You isolate one leg at a time and use your glute, quadriceps and hamstring muscles to lower and raise the bulk of your body weight. The movement also tones the core and helps you focus on balance, posture and coordination.
What to do
Stand alongside a chair that won't slide away, or a counter, and rest your nearest hand on it. Prepare for the movement by engaging your abs: Pretend you are pulling your belly button to your spine. As you step the opposite leg forward, call on your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings to help you lower into the movement, and then reverse it. Repeat.
In the beginning, just lower yourself a few inches. Use the stationary object for balance, but do not lean on it. Positioning the foot of your working leg will feel tricky until you learn how big of a step to take, so don't get discouraged. Your goal is to make sure the knee of the working leg stays roughly over the ankle. Never allow that knee to push forward past the toes, as that can lead to injury. When you're done with all your lunges on one side, turn around and hit the other side.
These can be tough. Begin by just learning the movement and dropping just a few inches. Work your way up to a full lunge, bringing your upper thigh parallel to the floor. For starters, work your way up to 10 reps per side. When that's easy, crank it up again. Reno wants you to do lunges three to four times a week, aiming for three sets of 10 for each leg. That's a butt-burning 60 lunges (30 on each side) per workout. Do that each week, Reno says, and you'll know why lunges are such a gym mainstay.
By the way, Reno says, there's no reason to give up your chair "cheat" even as you progress. It's a handy helper for those of us with balance issues.