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Forward Lunges: How to Use Proper Form & Technique Tips

By Kristin Rooke / April 13, 2017

Dumbbell forward lunges are an excellent way to not only engage your entire lower body, including your hip flexors, but also to help improve your balance and stabilization. This move also includes plyometric power, when you push yourself back to standing position from the lunge position.

This lunge variation challenges your leg strength, balance, and power, so grab your dumbbells and follow these instructions.

Dumbbell Forward Lunge Instructions

Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells by your sides. Pack your shoulders down and engage your abs.

Step your right leg forward, and then bend both knees to lunge down. Your back knee should hover just above the ground, with your front leg bent to a 90° angle.

Once in the down lunge position, powerfully drive off your right foot to push your body back up to standing.

Repeat on the left leg. Alternate legs for the desired number of repetitions.

In the forward lunge, you want to keep your spine tall and your body stable throughout the movement. To help stabilize your body, make sure that you strongly grip your dumbbells. This helps engage your core. As you lunge down, step forward far enough that your front knee doesn’t drive too far over your front toes, and plant your whole foot down. You want to breathe in through your nose as you lunge down, and exhale as you drive back up to standing.

3 Common Mistakes

While a side plank looks pretty straightforward, there are still some common mistakes you want to avoid.

1. Front Heel Comes Off The Ground

When you step forward into the lunge, it’s important to plant your entire foot down (including your heel).

When your front heel comes off the ground, you’re much less stable. You also aren’t able to generate as much power to push yourself back up to the standing position. Think about putting your weight in your front heel, and keeping your toes down for balance.

2. Front Knee Caves In

In the down lunge position, your knee should be directly over your ankle and in-line with your hip. Your leg should form a solid 90° angle.

If your knee caves in, there are generally two things going on: (1) the arch of your front foot has collapsed, and (2) you’re not engaging your gluteus medius, which works to stabilize your knees. This puts you at risk of a knee injury.

To fix this, I recommend watching your form in a mirror. Perform the movement slowly and with control. When you notice your knee collapse in, press your knee outward to engage your glute and lift the arch of your foot. When your knee is directly over your ankle, hold the position for 1-2 seconds, and then push off your foot to stand back up again.

Alternatively, focus on doing static lunges for awhile. Really focus on building strength and stability in your legs before progressing to this more plyometric variation.

3. Rounding Your Shoulders & Back

Standing tall as you do forward lunges serves multiple purposes. It helps you maintain total body tension, core stability, and balance.

If you round your shoulders and back as you lunge, you turn off all of those actions. You lose total body tension, your core is less active, and your balance will be more challenged. At the same time, you put pressure on your back and neck, which could start to cause back pain over time.

Instead of leaning over your front leg, focus on keeping your body tall throughout the lunge. Squeeze your lats to pack your shoulders, and tighten your core to stabilize your spine.

Now that you know what to do, and what not to do, add this lunge exercise to your next workout. We’d love to hear what you think!


  • Wendy says:

    I've always had a problem with forward lunges in that I'm not sure where to put my weight. Is it over the front leg, the rear leg, or between the two? Reverse lunges are better as I tend to keep my weight over the front leg as I step backwards.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Hey Wendy, most of your weight should be on your front leg with forward lunges because you need to powerfully step back to the starting position. The back leg is primarily used for balance.

  • Mary Ann says:

    Thank you for the visual, it is very helpful. I have not been dropping my knee close to the ground when I do lunges. It seems to be too much of a downward movement for me. Could this be due to the fact that I have long legs? Will it still be a benefit for me to continue doing the lunge the way I have been doing it? Thank you.

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      It really depends if you feel pain or not during the movement. If you can keep your front knee in line with your foot while dropping the back knee lower and still not feel any pain, then it's most likely ok to drop lower. Listen to your body and do what feels right