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November 07, 2021 8 min read

The secret to getting your hamstrings, quads and glutes strong and muscular? 

Simple, two words: barbell lunges.

We all get accustomed to our regular workout routines, incorporating the same couple of exercises on rotation, which can lead to our muscles reaching a growth plateau. It’s important to incorporate variety in your strength training routine to always challenge yourself both mentally and physically.

A barbell lunge is a great movement that not only works those lower-body muscles, but also takes a focus on your core stability, hip mobility and muscular balance. All you need is a barbell, some weights and your strength. Let’s go on ahead and get started.

What Is a Barbell Lunge?

A barbell lunge is an incredible compound exercise that uses numerous muscle groups at one time. This is great as it can be incorporated in a variety of different training programs but different variables may need to be adjusted in order for the exercise to lead you to your goals. Barbell lunges are a unilateral exercise that helps with full-body coordination.

Adding weight through the use of a barbell increases the tension placed on the muscles which overall develops strength in the lower body. We recommend performing different variations such as the front lunge, reverse lunge or walking lunge with only your body weight when you are first starting out the movement, then when you have mastered your form, add in the weight of a barbell.

What Muscles Does a Barbell Lunge Target?

    Leg muscle anatomical structure, labeled front, side and back view diagrams.
    • Quadriceps: The lunge movement places tension on the four muscle groups of your quadriceps, the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and the vastus lateralis in order to increase the size and strength.
    • Glutes: The barbell lunge is a great activation exercise that targets the three gluteal muscles, the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. By activating and working the glute muscles, they become more shaped and strong.Hamstrings: The lunge movement strengthens your hamstrings which allows you to extend your hips as well as flex your knee joint.
    • Calves: The calves are engaged at the bottom of the barbell lunges when you thrust upwards.The calf muscles are in charge of flexing your feet as well as moving your lower legs, feet and ankles.
    • Hip Flexors: When performing a barbell lunge, it is crucial that your hips stay square throughout the movement or else you are setting yourself up for possible injury. If you find that you are sinking on one side, it might be a sign that you need to incorporate some more stretching into your routine. Tight hip flexors can be a huge obstacle in the future of your exercise journey as it limits your overall mobility.
    • Abs: Barbell lunges also target your abdominals which are extremely important for maintaining upper body stability throughout the movement. Your core muscles are amongst the most important muscles in your body as they provide you with the support you need in both your daily life and exercise life.

    Barbell Lunge Benefits

    Strengthens Your Legs and Glutes

    Through increased activation in the lower body muscles such as the legs and glutes, the barbell lunge strengthens the muscle fibers in the muscles. The movement can address weakness in the glutes as well strengthen the muscle groups involved in the movement.

    The glutes are an extremely powerful muscle group that should not be neglected as they contribute to power output, back pain prevention and speed enhancement. By strengthening these lower body muscle groups, you are building the building blocks for increased muscle firing, hypertrophy as well as enhanced overall fitness performance.

    Lower Body Definition and Growth

    The lunge is a great movement to more closely target the lower body muscles. Studies have shown that performing unilateral movements like lunges, which involve targeting one side of the body at a time, can lead to more powerful muscular contractions. This is due to the fact that one side of your body is carrying more weight in comparison to a traditional movement such as a squat.

    The lunge is also great as it is a compound exercise, meaning it involves a variety of muscles in order to perform the movement. Therefore, you are increasing your overall caloric expenditure which can lead to fat-loss and weight-loss if that is your goal.

    Enhances Stability, Coordination, and Balance

    Not only do barbell lunges target those lower body muscles, but they also strengthen those core muscles which are in charge of providing your body with more stability. Balance, stability and coordination are amongst the most important components of exercise that many people seem to neglect. Since lunges are a unilateral exercise, it is important to take the time to stabilize the leg, glute and core muscles to keep you balanced and upright. 

    Not only does the movement improve your lower body muscles, but it will drastically improve your overall stability that are crucial for day-to-day activities. Balance takes a lot of mental focus which is great when you are using exercise as a form of therapy to get your mind off of all the stress our daily lives presents us with.

    Poor balance and stability are the cause of a lot of injuries simply due to muscle imbalances and by taking the time to incorporate exercises like barbell lunges into your routine, you decrease your chance of injury and challenge your balance both physically and mentally.

    Balance exercises have become more widely used in different sports training programs, fall prevention programs and rehabilitation programs and it is all due to the fact that there are endless benefits associated with improving balance and stability.

    systematic review found that the incorporation of balance training can be effective for improving postural well as injury prevention.

    Warming Up For Barbell Lunges

    If you’ve learned anything on your fitness journey, whether you’re a novice trainer or a hardcore bodybuilder, it is the importance of warming up. A warm-up is extremely important on both a physical level and a mental level. By warming up your muscles, you are preparing your body, your muscles and your mind for the activity that is about to occur.

    An effective warm up can increase flexibility, lower your risk of injury, increase your blood flow and oxygen, increase range of motion and overall, improve your performance. Since barbell lunges focus more on the lower body, let’s take a look at some good lower body activation exercises that will maximize your workout.

    1. Hip Flexor Stretch Lunge

    As mentioned previously, if you find yourself sinking to one side during your lunges, it may be a sign that your hip flexors are tight.


    1. Stand up straight and place your right foot forward and left foot straight back. Drop your back knee down to the ground.
    2. Begin to bend your front right knee to form a 90 degree angle so you are essentially in a lunge position. 
    3. Place your hands on the ground and drive your hips forward so that you feel a stretch on your left side. 
    4. Hold this pose for 20-30 seconds then switch sides.

    2. Bulgarian Split Squat


    1. Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
    2. Place your back foot on a knee-high elevated surface such as a bench or box. Make sure your front foot is forward enough so that you are capable of squatting without your front knee going past your toes.. 
    3. Begin to lean forward until your front thigh is parallel to the ground.
    4. Repeat steps 1-3 for your desired number of repetitions then switch to your opposite leg.

    3. Reverse Lunge


    A reverse lunge is quite similar to a traditional forward lunge but it is a regression as it provides you with more stability in your front leg. You can perform this warm up with either your body weight or with additional weights such as dumbbells or kettlebells.

    1. Stand up straight and begin to place more weight in your left foot. 
    2. Take a step backward with your right leg and sink down until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Your back leg’s knee should hover over the ground but do not let it touch the group. 
    3. Place your weight in the front heel as you push back to the starting position.
    4. Repeat steps 1-3 for your desired number of repetitions then switch to your opposite leg.

    4. Single-leg Raise


    1. Lie flat on your back with both of your legs straight in front of you. 
    2. Place your foot on the ground so you form a 90-degree angle at your knee. 
    3. Engage your core and begin to raise your straight leg up until your thigh is at the same height as your other knee. 
    4. Return to the starting position and repeat for 12 reps.

    How To Perform a Barbell Lunge

    A barbell lunge is a great progression to the traditional front lunge. It is important that you engage all your muscles while performing this exercise as placing extra weight on your body can be dangerous if the movement is not performed with coordination. We recommend doing one set with body weight, or if you are more advanced, start off your first set with just the weight of the barbell to ensure that your form is correct.


    1. Stand up straight with your feet hip width apart and your chest up high. 
    2. Grab a hold of your barbell and load some weight onto the barbell in order to place it on your rear deltoids. 
    3. Start with your left foot in front of you and step back with your right foot until you are in a lunge position. 
    4. Allow your right knee to hover right above the ground and make sure your left knee does not go over your left ankle. 
    5. Begin to place your weight in your left heel and drive upwards to return to starting position.
    6. Repeat steps 1-5 for your desired number of reps and sets then switch to the other leg to ensure balance.

    Barbell Lunge Tips

      • Treat Both Sides Equally:  If you perform a certain number of reps on one side, make sure you perform the same number of reps on the other side or else you may experience muscular imbalance.
      • Do Not Round Your Upper Back: It's no shock that our daily duties such as having to sit at a computer for 8 hours a day can contribute to muscle tightness and weakened muscles but according to  Harvard, paying attention to your posture is a great strategy to prevent backaches. Some beneficial exercises are chin tucks, shoulder blade squeezes, or different upper body stretches. Experts also recommend being mindful while sitting to prevent sitting in a hunched-over position repetitively.
      • Do Not Rush The Movement: There is art in taking time through things and it is no different with exercise. By taking the time to really focus on your form, you will guarantee you are targeting the correct muscles to maximize your workout and increase your gains.


      Lunges are such a great exercise as there are so many different alternatives that can lead to great results. A barbell lunge is a great lower body exercise that targets a variety of muscles and does not require much equipment. All it needs is you, a barbell and a safe working space. 

      Regardless of what alternative you perform, It is crucial that when performing this movement you focus on proper form. You do not want to round your upper back as this can compromise your spine and lead to back injury. To prevent possible complications or injury, bring your awareness to keeping your back straight and your chest upright.

      If you enjoyed this leg exercise and would like to continue working on those lower body gains, check out this article on the best exercises for a lower body blasting workout.