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how to do the curtsy lunge

Lunges are great for building strength in your legs and glutes while also improving balance, stability, and mobility. Chances are you’ve done forward, reverse, and lateral varieties; each offers a subtle but powerful difference to challenge you. Now, meet the curtsy lunge.

True to its name, it involves stepping one foot behind the other and bending your knees into, well, a curtsy. But don’t be fooled into thinking this move is a gendered gesture.

Instead of stepping straight to the front, back, or side, the curtsy lunge calls for simultaneously stepping your foot back and behind your standing leg. In addition to the usual lunge benefits, this motion adds an extra challenge to your hip stabilizers as well as your inner thighs.

To get the most out of curtsy lunges and avoid common pitfalls, try these tips:

  • Don’t overstep. For beginners, a good starting point is to line up the knee of your moving leg with the heel of your planted foot. Depending on your mobility and physiology, you may be able to perform a deeper curtsy with a longer stride.
  • Don’t push your butt out or let your hips twist to the side. Imagine your hips are headlights and your pelvis is a bowl of soup. Keep those headlights pointing forward and the soup bowl steady as you descend into the lunge.
  • Don’t let your standing knee or ankle splay out or twist in. Protect the joints by tracking the knee over your toes and remain grounded through your planted foot.

Instructions

  1. Stand with feet about hip width apart. Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step your right foot back and to the left, allowing both knees to bend.
  2. Lower your body straight down, without wrenching, until the front (left) knee forms a 90-degree angle.
  3. Reverse the movement by stepping your rear (right) foot back to the starting position.
  4. Complete the desired number of reps and repeat on the opposite side.

Additional Tips

  • Lower yourself vertically, bracing your abs to maintain an upright posture. Imagine that your torso is an elevator moving straight down and up.
  • Keep your arms extended for balance or place your hands on your hips.
  • Keep your hips and shoulders squared and stacked.
  • Your back knee can graze the floor, but take care not to relax at the bottom of the move.

Variations

Curtsy Lunge With Side Kick

  • Stand with your feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step your right foot back and to the left, allowing the front (left) knee to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle.
  • Allow both knees to bend, but keep your hips and shoulders squared to avoid wrenching your body.
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe. 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 (right) foot back toward the starting position — but instead of planting your foot here, perform a controlled kick to the side.
  • Without placing your foot back on the floor, descend back into your curtsy. Move slowly and with control from the lunge to the side kick and repeat.
  • Complete desired number of reps and repeat on opposite side.

Curtsy Split Squat

  • Stand with your feet about hip width apart.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step your right foot back and to the left, allowing your front (left) knee to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle.
  • Allow both knees to bend, but keep your hips and shoulders squared to avoid wrenching your body.
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe. Your back knee can graze the floor, but take care not to relax at the bottom of the move.
  • Instead of stepping your rear (right) foot back, hold this position and straighten your knees to come to a standing position with your right foot still behind you and to the side.
  • Again, without moving your feet, lower yourself into the curtsy squat position.
  • Repeat the up-and-down motion for the desired number of reps, then step your right foot forward to return to standing with both feet planted. Then repeat on the opposite side.

Goblet Curtsy Lunge

  • Stand with your feet about hip width apart. Hold a kettlebell goblet-style in front of your chest.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step your right foot back and to the left, allowing the front (left) knee to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle.
  • Allow both knees to bend, but keep your hips and shoulders squared to avoid wrenching your body.
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe. 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 (right) foot back to the starting position.
  • Complete desired number of reps and repeat on opposite side.

Slider Curtsy

  • Stand with your feet about hip width apart, with the foot you’re going to move (the right foot, in this example) on a slider.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, slide your right foot back and to the left, allowing the front (left) knee to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle. Don’t let your right foot come off the slider.
  • Allow both knees to bend, but keep your hips and shoulders squared to avoid wrenching your body.
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe. Your back knee can graze the floor, but take care not to relax at the bottom of the move.
  • Reverse the movement by sliding your rear (right) foot back to the starting position. Avoid twisting your body as you stand back up.
  • Complete desired number of reps and repeat on opposite side.

Dumbbell Curtsy Lunge

  • Stand with your feet about hip width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang down at your sides.
  • Keeping your chest proud and shoulders squared over your hips, step your right foot back and to the left, allowing the front (left) knee to bend until it forms a 90-degree angle.
  • Allow both knees to bend, but keep your hips and shoulders squared to avoid wrenching your body.
  • Keep your front knee in line with the middle toe. 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 (right) foot back to the starting position.
  • Complete desired number of reps and repeat on opposite side.

This article originally appeared as “The Curtsy Lunge” in the June 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Photos: Colin Simmons; Styling: Pam Brand; Model: Alejandro Martinez
Maggie
Maggie Fazeli Fard

Maggie Fazeli Fard, RKC, is an Experience Life senior editor.

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