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The lunge is a great conditioning exercise, especially useful for sports such as tennis, basketball or soccer, but it also builds and tones muscles in the legs and hips. There are many variations of the lunge. You can do a basic front lunge, a crossover or a back lunge. You can do lunges anywhere without any special equipment but can add intensity by holding a barbell or dumbbells while you lunge.
A simple forward lunge targets muscles in the abdomen, hips and legs. It primarily focuses on the glutes in the hip and buttocks and the quadriceps and hamstrings in the thigh, but also works muscles in the calf. It is basically a variation on walking. You step forward with one leg, bending until your thigh is parallel to the floor and your back knee almost touches the floor. Then you stand up and lunge with the other leg. The specific muscles are transverse abdominus, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius/minimus, quadriceps, hamstrings and obliques.
A rear lunge works the same muscles but with more emphasis on the quadriceps. The secondary target area is glutes in the buttocks and the muscles in the front and rear of the calf. You do a rear lunge much like a forward lunge, except you step to the rear rather than front. You bend the forward leg until the thigh is parallel to the floor, and bend the rear leg until the knee almost touches.
A walking lunge is a series of forward lunges and works the same muscles, but adds an element of stability because you move forward. You lunge with one leg, but instead of standing erect and lunging with the other leg in the same spot, you rise up on the front foot, then lunge ahead with the other foot.
Other variations are the in-and-out and crossover lunges, which put more emphasis on the inner and outer thighs. Instead of stepping straight forward, you lunge diagonally away from your body, so you lunge to the left side with your left foot, for instance. For a crossover, you lunge across your body, so your left foot crosses over the right. These lunges also exercise the buttocks and hamstrings.