The Overhead Lunge Exercise

This weighted lunge works nearly every muscle group

exercise class doing overhead lunges
Christopher Futcher/iStock

This is a variation of the basic lunge exercise that works the entire body and has tremendous benefits for most athletes. By holding weights overhead while performing a lunge, you build upper- and- lower-body strength, increase the power and speed in the legs, and improve core strength during movements.

The overhead lunge exercise builds lower body strength in the quads, glutes and core, while improving balance and proprioception.

This exercise builds power, because it requires that the athlete load the foot, knees, hips and core up through the shoulders, and then quickly and powerfully unload this weight by driving down in to the ground to return to the start position.

As a stability exercise, this movement isolates the quads and hamstrings with the lunge motion. Adding the overhead weight causes the stabilizers in the shoulders, including the upper and lower trapezius, to engage as well as force the core muscles to lengthen and contract even more fully.

It's also a great way to challenge your balance and engage muscles that are used while focusing on one leg at a time, such as running, cross country skiing and even cycling.

Muscles Worked: abdominals, glutes, quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings

How to Do It

The Overhead Lunge Exercise:

  • Hold a weight plate (pictured), weighted bar, or dumbbells overhead, with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Keep the weight directly overhead (in line with the shoulder joint), and take a comfortable step forward in to a deep lunge position.
  • Make sure your forward knee remains over your forward foot (not in front of it).
  • Forcefully drive your forward heel in to the ground and return to the starting position.
  • Perform up to 10 repetitions on each side and then switch sides.
  • Maintain perfect posture throughout the movement—your head is level, your eyes are looking forward, your chest is held high and your back is flat.
  • Don't bend your elbows or let the weight sink during the movement.
  • Don't let your front heel lift off of the ground.

It's helpful to practice this exercise with no weight in the beginning. Hold a broomstick or other light bar overhead as you squat. Increase the weight only when you master the movement. If you cannot complete 10 repetitions with perfect form and control, reduce the weight and focus on your form.

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