How to Do the Overhead Lunge

This advanced exercise works nearly every muscle group

exercise class doing overhead lunges
Christopher Futcher/iStock

The overhead lunge is a weighted variation of the basic lunge that works the entire body and involves nearly every muscle group. By holding weights overhead, you build upper and lower body strength, increase the power and propulsion of your legs, and improve core strength.

The overhead lunge not only builds strength in the quadriceps and gluteus muscles, it improves your balance, core stability, and proprioception (spatial orientation of your body).

The exercise is able to work out multiple muscle groups because it requires the individual to drive the weight upward through the foot, knees, hips, core, and shoulders, and then forcefully unload the weight by driving down into the starting lunge position.

As a stability exercise, it is able to isolate the quads and hamstrings by keeping the upper body controlled under the burden of the added weight. It also engages the stabilizers in the shoulders (including the upper and lower trapezius) and forces the core muscles to lengthen and contract more fully.

The overhead lunge is a great way to challenge your balance as you shift your focus from one leg to the next, such as you might when running, cross-country skiing, and cycling. The abdominals and hip flexors also benefit.

How to Do the Overhead Lunge

Because the overhead lunge is an advanced plyometric movement, it should not be performed until you've completed a warm up or some basic movement prep, such as a quick core workout or a glute activation routine.

Even after a warm-up, the exercise requires control and a slower progression until you are fully stabilized and balanced. Take it slow for the first few transitions. To start the exercise:

  • Hold a weight plate, weighted bar, dumbbells, or weighted exercise ball over your head with your feet positioned shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Keep the weight directly overhead in line with the shoulder joint and take a comfortable step forward into a deep lunge position.
  • Make sure your forward knee remains over your forward foot and not in front of it.
  • Forcefully drive your forward heel into the ground and return to the starting position.
  • Perform this movement up to 10 repetitions on one leg and then switch to the other.

Try to maintain perfect posture throughout the movement. Keep your head level, your eyes straight ahead, your chest high, and your back flat. Do not bend your elbows or let your core sink during the movement. Do not let the heel of your front foot lift off of the ground.

Variations

If you're new to the overhead lunge, start either with low or no weight until you are accustomed to the movement and ability to maintain proper form. You can also try a broomstick or stability ball. Increase the weight only when you master the movement.

If you cannot complete 10 repetitions with perfect form and control, do yourself a favor and reduce the weight. Lower weights and proper form will not only get you further faster, it can save you from unnecessary strain and injury.

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