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Overhead Lunge: The 8 Best Variations for Full Body Sculpting & Strength

Looking to sculpt your legs, glutes, arms, and shoulders? Add some overhead lunge variations to your workout routine! These exercises are great for all fitness levels.

Daniel Murphy
Overhead Lunge: The 8 Best Variations for Full Body Sculpting & Strength
Table Of Contents

The overhead lunge is a move that works your entire body. It's great for sculpting your legs, arms, and core and strengthens your upper body. It is a powerful variation of the basic lunge exercise that uses nearly every muscle group in your body.

This builds upper- and lower-back strength and works on both legs to increase power for running or other high-intensity activities like football! You can perform this exercise using dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, and other gear.

There are many variations of the overhead lunge, so you can always keep your workouts fresh and challenging. This article will share eight of our favorite overhead lunge variations. We'll also give you tips on performing each variation properly.

So whether you're a newbie or a seasoned exerciser, there's an overhead lunge variation for you. Read on to learn more!

How to Do the Overhead Lunge

The overhead lunge is a challenging exercise. So be sure to finish a warm-up before you start, like dynamic stretches or a bodyweight version of the exercise.

The exercise needs control and a cautious progression, even after a warm-up, to ensure you are stable and balanced. Select a weight before you begin, such as a weighted bar, weight plate, dumbbells, or medicine ball. Make sure you can hold anyone you choose comfortably.

  • Start with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • As you lift the weight above your head, take a breath.
  • Maintain the weight high and in the middle of your shoulder joints.
  • Take a smooth stride forward into a deep lunge and exhale.
  • Take a breath and pause to review your form. Instead of being in front of your forward foot, your forward knee should still be above it.
  • Exhale and firmly plant your forward heel on the ground.
  • Take a breath as you raise yourself to the starting posture.
  • Do 10 repetitions. With your other leg extended, switch sides and perform the same number of reps.

The following are the common mistakes that most people make while performing overhead lunges:

Bad Posture

Keep your posture consistent from beginning to end. Keep your back flat, your chest up, your eyes straight ahead, and your head level. Do not allow your core to sag or bend your elbows. Your front foot's heel shouldn't rise off the floor.

Weak Core

A powerful core during the raising of the weight, the lunge, and the return will prevent you from being fatigued too early, in addition to being essential for keeping proper posture. To prevent injury, keeping your core engaged will also help you maintain the movements calm and controlled.

Taking Short Steps

Although overhead lunges seem quite simple, they provide a challenging exercise. To that end, ensure you aren't short-stepping your lunge if you quickly see that you are tired. Your muscles will be overworked if your knees extend past your toes, and your balance may be affected if your heel lifts off the ground.

Allowing the Weight to Sink

You might be utilizing more weight than you can safely lift if you feel the weight "falling" down as you lunge. Maintaining good form during the lunge entails keeping the weight above your head.

Pro Tip: As you advance and lower yourself into the lunge, it can be helpful to lift the weight.

Benefits of Overhead Lunges

The overhead lunge enhances balance, core stability, and proprioception while strengthening your glutes and quadriceps muscles (spatial orientation of your body).

The exercise works several muscle groups as you forcibly unload the weight by driving down into a lunge stance after driving the weight up through the foot, knees, hips, core, and shoulders.

Overhead lunges isolate your quads and hamstrings as a stability exercise by maintaining the upper body under control while carrying the weight. The exercise also compels your core muscles to stretch and fully contract, as well as shoulder stabilizers like the upper and lower trapezius.

The overhead lunge is a fantastic exercise to test your balance as you switch your attention from one leg to the other, much like when you run, cross-country ski, or ride a bike. Your hip flexors and abdominal muscles gain from this attention.

Best Overhead Lunge Variations

Overhead lunges are an excellent way to add variety to your workout routine. Not only do they work your legs and glutes, but they also challenge your core and stabilizer muscles.

Plus, they can be done with your body weight or added resistance, making them suitable for all fitness levels. If you’re looking to add some new variations to your workout, here are 8 of the best overhead lunge variations to try.

1. Dumbbell Overhead Lunge

The dumbbell overhead lunge is among the most effective exercises for toning the legs, glutes, and arms. This move is relatively simple to execute but can be challenging if you use heavyweight dumbbells.

  • Starting with a tall, shoulder-width stance.
  • Lift the dumbbell overhead while retaining the weight in the overhead position and locking out your elbow(s).
  • To fully stabilize, keep your biceps close to your ears and contract your core muscles.
  • Step one foot forward and lower your body until your knee is bent at 90 degrees, just like you would in a typical lunge.
  • As you control the weight above your head, keep your chest and core firm.
  • After pausing, resume your forward foot movement to the beginning position.
  • Once more, depending on the set you're performing, repeat the action on the other or the same leg.

2. Barbell Overhead Lunge

This variation is much more challenging than the dumbbell one. This equipment will help you become stronger, more stable, and more mobile as you can add more weight to a barbell.

This exercise can also be performed as a walking overhead barrel lunge, which would have similar advantages but need much stronger wrist and shoulder stability.

  • Starting with a tall, shoulder-width stance.
  • Lift the barbell overhead.
  • To fully stabilize, keep your biceps close to your ears and contract your core muscles.
  • Step one foot forward and lower your body until your knee is bent at 90 degrees, just like you would in a typical lunge.
  • As you control the weight above your head, keep your chest and core firm.
  • After pausing, resume your forward foot movement to the beginning position.
  • Once more, depending on the set you're performing, repeat the action on the other or the same leg.

3. Suspension Trainer Reverse Lunge

Give your lower body and core the support they might need to execute a lunge by holding onto the Suspension Trainer handles while you do it. This technique can maintain your balance and increase your lower body strength as you master practically any new lunge variant.

  • Hold the Suspension Trainer handles at chest level.
  • Step back until the handles are strong enough to support you if you lean back, but there is still room to raise them to your hips.
  • Reverse lunge and step back while holding the handles loosely. Gently place your back knee on the ground.
  • Pull the handles closer to your chest to support your weight and balance as you return to standing. Restart and continue.

4. Overhead Reverse Lunge

The overhead reverse lunge is frequently the first type of lunge that beginners learn. This lunge is an excellent alternative to the standard forward lunge, which calls for you to take a step forward. The lifter takes a step back in the reverse lunge, which is only fitting.

Many people find the overhead reverse lunge a bit easier to balance, while lifters have different preferences depending on their sense of proprioception and biomechanics. For instance, you might use an overhead reverse lunge to help you build a solid foundation before you start loading the movement.

  • Place your feet hip-width apart and stand tall with your arms overhead.
  • Press into your left foot for balance.
  • Step your right foot behind you far enough to bend your back knee at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
  • Bend your knees once your right foot's toes are on the floor behind you.
  • When you crouch down, your right knee should be softly touched at a 90-degree angle.
  • Likewise, maintain a 90-degree angle with your front leg.
  • Lift your rear foot off the floor and return it to the beginning position as you stand back up.
  • Repeat on the other side.

5. Reverse Lunge With Rotation

This is a literal spin on the reverse lunge. You'll need core strength to maintain your torso upright while performing the reverse lunge, especially heavy varieties. But including a rotation in the move will make maintaining balance even more difficult. Additionally, it will more clearly include your obliques in the mix.

As your back leg moves back, you'll rotate toward the side of your front leg. As a result, if you step back with your left leg, your body will rotate to the right. Instead of pulling your hips out of alignment, keep your chest tall and rotate through your rib cage.

  • Prepare for a reverse lunge.
  • Keep a tall torso.
  • Turn your torso to face the right side of the room by leading with your right shoulder, and keeping your left leg back.
  • Your left leg should be touching the floor while you attempt to turn your torso to face the right side of the room.
  • As you return to standing, untwist.
  • Restart, then repeat on the opposite side.

6. Walking Lunge

Many lifters who are serious about leg training and possess a lot of mental grit regularly perform walking lunges. Walking lunges may appear to be walking with a slightly bent knee, but they are a terrific technique to work your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

These lunges may be loaded in several positions, including overhead, goblet-style, and at your sides. But the bodyweight version will work fine if you're not ready to add weight. You'll face a significant balance test, and your muscles will be exhausted after completing your reps.

  • Place your feet hip-width apart and stand tall.
  • Put your right foot forward and move forward.
  • Lunge forward until your knees are 90 degrees bent in both directions.
  • Press through your front foot and stand up again until your back knee gently touches or almost touches the ground.
  • Take your next step forward before lunging.
  • As you walk, repeat the motion while switching legs.

7. Pendulum Lunge

Your standard forward and backward lunge will start to become more dynamic as you transition to the pendulum lunge. The forward lunge and reverse lunge will be combined into one rep. You'll "pendulum" your way into a forward lunge after beginning with a reverse lunge. By doing this, you'll immediately move into a reverse lunge without letting your middle foot touch the ground.

It's okay to transition without stepping on the ground because it's unavailable. You can touch your toe on the floor in the middle of a standing lunge stance. If you want a harder balance challenge over time, think about diminishing and finally eliminating the toe touch.

  • Place your feet hip-width apart as you stand.
  • For stability, plant your right foot firmly on the ground.
  • To do a reverse lunge, lift your left foot, step back, and repeat.
  • Return to standing when your back knee lightly contacts or gets close to the ground.
  • Go directly into a forward lunge without placing your left foot on the ground or even softly tapping it.
  • Complete the reps, then switch sides.

8. Lateral Lunge

Most lifters are very comfortable moving in the sagittal plane, which are the movements that need you to go up and down or back and forth, such as squats and walking lunges. In the frontal plane, movement is side-to-side motion.

The lateral exercises will significantly aid your total lifting capability in the frontal position. Using lateral movements like lateral lunges might assist you in overcoming any side dominance you may exhibit daily.

They can also help balance any movement irregularities arising from exercising in the sagittal plane.

  • Your toes should be pointed forward when you stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a step out to the right with your right leg.
  • Your right knee should be over your toes as you squat back down on that leg.
  • Maintain a straight left leg with your foot firmly planted on the ground.
  • Use your right foot as a lever to assist you in rising again.
  • Restart and continue.


1. What are overhead lunges good for?

Overhead lunges are great for increasing hip flexibility and range of motion. They are also effective exercises for strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

2. Why are overhead lunges so hard?

The difficulty of overhead lunges is because they require significant stability, mobility, balance, and strength. Even the slightest imbalance can cause you to lose footing and stumble.

Additionally, this move requires a good amount of shoulder and core strength to maintain proper form throughout the entire movement.

3. What body parts are best developed by lunge?

The body parts best developed by lunge exercises are the hamstrings, glutes, and quads. These muscles are used to extend the hip and knee, which is the primary motion involved in lunging.

4. What happens if you do a lot of lunges?

Doing a lot of lunges can help improve your balance and stability. It can also help you achieve better results when losing weight or toning your body.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to getting a full-body workout, the overhead lunge is one of the best exercises you can do. Not only does it sculpt your legs and glutes, but it also strengthens your arms and shoulders. Plus, it's a great exercise to incorporate into any workout routine. However, there are many variations of the overhead lunge, including bodyweight, walking, lateral, pendulum, reverse lunge with rotation, suspension trainer, dumbbell, and barbell overhead lunge.

The added weight and resistance to these variations may give you a tough time, but with practice, correct form, and dedication, you’ll become a pro. So, get moving today!

Reading List

Article Sources

  • Szafraniec, Rafał, et al. “Acute Effects of Core Stability Exercises on Balance Control.” Acta of Bioengineering and Biomechanics, vol. 20, no. 4, 2018, pp. 145–51.

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Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy is a fitness enthusiast who has been exploring the fitness world for many years and is combining his passion for writing to create well-researched, engaging, and unique content

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