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A lunge can refer to any position of the human body where one leg is positioned forward with knee bent and foot flat on the ground while the other leg is positioned behind. It is used by athletes in cross-training for sports, by weight-trainers as a fitness exercise, and by yogis as part of an asana regimen.
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Lunges are a good exercise for strengthening, sculpting and building several muscles/muscle groups, including the quadriceps (or thighs), the gluteus maximus (or buttocks) as well as the hamstrings.
A long lunge emphasizes the gluteals whereas a short lunge emphasizes the quadriceps.
A lunge can be performed with bodyweight. However, weight trainers usually seek to increase the difficulty using either dumbbells (held in each hand) or a barbell with weights on it (held atop the neck and shoulders). Grip strength may be an issue with the dumbbell lunge so practitioners may therefore prefer the barbell lunge.
As a variation, plyometric lunges (also known as split squat jumps) can be performed by jumping explosively between lunge positions.
The practice of yoga often includes any number of lunge-related asanas, the names of which vary in different yoga traditions. Examples of Sanskrit names include Anjaneyasana (Anjaneya's pose), Ashwa Sanchalanasana or Aekpaadprasarnaasana (equestrian pose), Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana (extended equestrian pose), and Ardha Mandalasana (half circle pose). Depending on the lineage and circumstances, the back knee can be down or up, the toes may be tucked or untucked, and the arms may be in any number of positions.
Lunge variations are sometimes incorporated as part of Surya Namaskar, a flowing sequence of asanas linked by breath.