One of the most challenging lower-body exercises, lunging has long been endorsed by fitness enthusiasts as an excellent way to both build muscle and improve cardiovascular health. Today, trainer Lisa Lynn demonstrates four lunging techniques and two accompanying stretches, each designed to target a distinct set of muscles in the thighs and buttocks. Keep in mind that you should always consult a physician before starting any new fitness regimen, stretch both before and after working out, and in order to attain a more toned lower body, complement exercises with a sensible, well-balanced diet. Lisa also cautions that you should be mindful of your form so that you don't overextend the cartilage or tendons in your knees.
Stand up straight with your feet together. Bring one leg back as you lower yourself into a sitting position with the other leg. Balance your weight on the heel of your front leg. Repeat, leading with the opposite leg. Do a total of 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground, several inches wider than shoulder width, and your arms crossed over your chest. Tighten your buttock muscles, and bend your knees as if you're about to sit in a chair, making sure your knees stay behind your toes. Hold the position for a few seconds, then use your buttock and leg muscles to pull yourself back up to standing position. If you have trouble getting into position or lose your balance, hold onto a doorjamb or another anchored object to steady yourself. (To make this a nonimpact move, don't return to the starting position; simply straighten your knees a bit, and come up slightly, keeping both feet on the ground, then lower yourself down.) Do 15 repetitions.
Stand up straight with your feet together. Take a big step forward, crossing over your back leg. Drop your back knee to the floor, transferring your weight to the front leg and making sure your knee doesn't cross over your toes. Push off the heel of your front leg, and use your buttock muscles to return to starting position. Repeat, leading with the opposite leg. Do a total of 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Stand up straight with your feet together. With one leg, take a wide step out to the side, landing firmly on your foot. Lower yourself down as far as comfortably possible, keeping your weight on the heel of your lunging leg and making sure your knee doesn't cross over your toe. Return to starting position by pushing off with the heel of your lunging leg. (To make this a nonimpact move, don't return to the starting position: Simply straighten your knees a bit, and come up slightly, keeping both feet on the ground, then lower yourself back down.) Do 15 repetitions with each leg.
While lying on your back, fold a towel or strap in half, and hook one foot into the loop. Holding onto the strap, straighten your leg out in front of you so that it's suspended in the air, perpendicular to your body. Use the strap to gently pull your leg out to the right, and hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. Bring your leg back to the center, then to the left over your torso, and hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch, using the opposite leg.
Sit on the floor, with your legs positioned together in front of you and with your toes facing upward (your feet should be relaxed -- neither flexed nor pointed). Keep your back straight, and tilt forward at the waist with your arms outstretched, reaching toward your toes. Grab your toes or shoelaces, and hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. If you cannot reach them, reach as far as you can, and hold that position. Note how far you can reach, and make it a goal to eventually reach your toes. With regular stretching, you should become more flexible.