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Dumbbell lunges are a free-weight strength-training exercise that develops a number of muscles in your lower body. Your legs have to lift up the weight of your own body, as well as the weight of the dumbbells. Unlike leg presses or leg extensions performed on a weight-training machine, dumbbell lunges require an added element of balance and coordination.
The single-leg squat element that's involved in the dumbbell lunge exercise closely mimics movements required of athletes during competition. As a result, the strength you will develop from dumbbell lunges will transfer better to performance enhancements than if you were to do leg press on a machine. The United States Tennis Association notes that lunges maximize the use of strength, as well as balance and coordination needs of certain athletes.
The dumbbell lunge is a compound weight-training exercise, meaning it involves movement at multiple joints. Muscles surrounding your hips, knees and ankles must all work together to coordinate the lunge. According to ExRx.net, the lunge develops the quadriceps, which is the collection of muscles at the front of your thighs, your gluteus maximus, or buttocks, and your soleus, one of the muscles in your calves.
Mix up your workout by changing the direction in which you lunge. The typical dumbbell lunge involves taking a large step forward with one foot, and then lowering down to perform the lunge before returning your lead foot back to starting position. However, you can also add walking lunges, side lunges and rear lunges into your workout. Walking lunges place more demand on your gluteus maximus because you have to perform a greater degree of hip extension. Side lunges will work your inner thigh adductor muscles to a greater degree. Rear lunges will increase the challenge for the quadriceps of your front leg, because you have to slowly bend your front leg while taking a step backward.
Incorporate Upper-Body Elements
With a pair of dumbbells in your hand, you can easily incorporate upper-body strength-training elements into your lunge exercise, including shoulder press and biceps curls are two exercises. For the shoulder press, hold the weights at your shoulders. Perform the lunge with the weights still loaded up at your shoulders. As you rise up out of the lunge, simultaneously press the dumbbells up overhead, fully extending your arms. Before you perform the next repetition, lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders. When incorporating dumbbell curl, start with the dumbbells held down by your sides. As you come up out of the lunge, simultaneously bend your elbows to curl the weights up to your shoulders.