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Austin lunging in a studio

Lunges have earned their reputation as a staple movement in many strength and conditioning programs for good reason: These multi-joint movements not only strengthen the muscles in your glutes, quads, and calves, but they also improve stability in your core, lower back, and hip, knee, and ankle joints.

“Lunging truly is, in my opinion, one of the best lower body exercises you can do,” says Austin Head, group fitness performer and trainer at several Life Time clubs in the New York City area. “You can do lunges anywhere — and with so many different variations.”

Austin with plaque in his hand

Photo by Marissa Cohen Photography

Head is such a fan of lunges that on March 22, 2024, he set out to break the Guinness World Record for most lunges performed in one hour by a male — and did just that by completing 2,825 lunges. Only 12 days earlier, while training for the event, Head also broke the Guinness World Record for the farthest distance traveled by lunging in one hour, which was 2.14 miles.

Head turned 30 in August 2023 and decided he wanted to pursue a challenging goal in his 30th year. “A member who regularly takes my classes works at Guinness World Records and was the one who suggested I go for a world record,” Head explains. “I teach almost 30 classes a week and do so many lunges in class that I thought, This could be the record for me. During the pandemic, I would also regularly do 45 minutes of walking lunges at a time.”

Head used the event as an opportunity to fundraise for the Life Time Foundation, which supports children’s health through youth nutrition and movement. His efforts resulted in an additional $9,609 for the organization.

Austin head on the ground with arms in the air

Photo by Marissa Cohen Photography

Further, the event served as a reminder of the power of movement in creating community. “We had 50 to 60 people who walked every step along the way with me as I lunged,” recalls Head. “I only moved to New York City two-and-a-half years ago — to realize the impact I’ve made on other people and to have them show up for me . . . it was awesome. I felt so lucky.”

Over the course of training for the event, Head performed one to two miles of lunges at least three to four times per week — and while those were primarily walking lunges, you can modify the lunge movement in a number of ways for varying challenge. Here, Head shares three of his go-to lunge variants.

Austin lunging with mew York skyline behind

Photo by Marissa Cohen Photography

Head’s 3 Favorite Lunge Variations

When scaled appropriately with the right load, intensity, and volume, there’s something to gain from just about any lunge variation. “My favorite variation of the lunge is the walking lunge, of course,” says Head. “Walking lunges make for a great cardiovascular workout and are also incredible for a quad-focused workout. Reverse lunges are a staple in many of the workout classes I teach, and lateral lungers are great not only for strength but for mobility too.”

1. Walking Lunges

  • Stand with feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step forward with one foot and lower into a lunge.
  • Allow both knees to bend to form approximately 90-degree angles. Don’t let your front knee push past your toes.
  • Press through your front foot to stand, as you bring your rear foot forward.
  • Step forward so your rear foot becomes your front foot and repeat the same lunge movement.
  • Continue to alternate legs until you complete the desired number of reps.

2. Reverse Lunges

  • Stand with feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step backward with one foot.
  • Allow both knees to bend until they form 90-degree angles. (Adjust the length of your stride as needed to accomplish this.)
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe of that leg. Your back knee can graze the floor but take care not to relax at the bottom of the move.
  • Reverse the movement by stepping your rear foot back to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the opposite leg. Continue alternating until you complete the desired number of reps.

3. Lateral Lunges

  • Stand with feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step to the side with one foot.
  • Push your butt back to allow the knee of the lead leg to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle. (Adjust the length of your stride as needed to accomplish this.)
  • Keep the bent knee in line with the middle toe of that leg. Your other leg will be straight.
  • Reverse the movement by driving through the foot of your lead leg and stepping back to the starting position.
  • Complete desired number of reps, then repeat on opposite side.

Austin Head is a group fitness performer and trainer at Life Time Dumbo in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Life Time 23rd Street, Life Time One Wall Street, Life Time Sky (Manhattan), and Life Time Midtown in New York City. Find his classes on the in-club schedule or live-stream schedule.

Keep the conversation going.

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Callie Chase
Callie Fredrickson

Callie Fredrickson is a content editor at Life Time.

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