Curtsy Lunge – Technique, Benefits, and Variations

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A female athlete is demonstrating curtsy lunges in a room

How to do | Muscles worked | Who Should/Should Not | Add to routine | Safety Tips | Benefits | Variations

The curtsy lunge, also popularly known as a curtsy squat, is a great way to add some variety to your lower-body workouts. This hybrid of a squat and lunge targets the glutes and abductor muscles more than a standard lunge.

Curtsy lunges help improve your balance and coordination when performed correctly. These exercises can be done with or without weight.

How to do a curtsy lunge?

Since the curtsy lunge is a bodyweight exercise, you don’t need any equipment. Here is a step-by-step guide to performing a curtsy lunge.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and let your hands hang at your sides.
  2. Shift your body weight on your right foot. Take your left leg across and behind your right leg.
  3. Bend both knees until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and the left knee is almost touching the floor.
  4. As you bend, you can let your arms rest on your sides or bring them up to your chest level to maintain balance.
  5. Push up through your right heel and return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the movement for 2-3 reps and then switch to the right leg keeping weight on the left foot.

Muscles worked

Although curtsy lunges recruit all major lower-body muscles, it emphasizes the glutes and quads more. Here are the muscles worked in a curtsy lunge.

Primary muscles worked

Glutesgluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and gluteus maximus
Quadricepsrectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis

Secondary muscles activated

Thighship abductors
Calvessoleus and gastrocnemius
Hamstringsbiceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosus

Who should and should not do?

Here is a list of people who should and should not do curtsy lunges.

Who should do it?

Curtsy lunges are a great exercise for people who want to:

  • Tone and shape their lower body, particularly the hips, glutes, and thighs
  • Improve their balance and coordination

Who should not do it?

Curtsy lunges are not recommended for people who:

  • Have knee pain or any other lower-body injury
  • Pregnant women

Add to your workout routine

The curtsy lunge provides an extra challenge to your coordination and balance. You can use this move after other primary leg exercises, such as squats and standard lunges.

Beginner level

Here is a sample workout plan for beginners who wants to incorporate curtsy lunges to their fitness routine: 

Beginner Level ExercisesReps
Warm-up (light jog)5-10 minutes
Air squats2-3 sets of 10 reps
Basic lunges 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps
Curtsy lunge2-3 sets of 6-8 reps
Cat cow pose (cooldown) 1-2 minutes

Intermediate level

If you are at intermediate or advanced fitness levels, here is a sample you can follow to add curtsy lunges to your routine: 

Intermediate/ Advanced ExercisesReps
Warm-up (light jog)5-10 minutes
Leg extensions3-4 sets of 12 reps
Bulgarian split squat3-4 sets of 15 reps
Curtsy lunge with moderate to heavy weights3-5 sets of 6-8 reps 
Cat cow pose (cool down) 1-2 minutes

Safety tips

Although curtsy lunges are a relatively safe exercise, incorrect form and overtraining can lead to injuries. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind while performing curtsy lunges.

1. Warm-up

Warm up thoroughly before starting your workout. A 5-10 minute light jog or a dynamic warm-up routine will suffice. This will get your blood pumped, and your joints and muscles loosened up for the workout.

2. Start with bodyweight

If you’re a beginner, start with body weight curtsy lunges. You can add dumbbells or even a barbell to your curtsy lunge movement as you get stronger. 

3. Keep your hips square, and your torso upright

As you lower into your lunge, make sure your hips remain square to the front. This will ensure that your glutes and quads do the most work. Also, keep your torso upright and avoid leaning forward. Leaning forward will strain your lower back unnecessarily and reduce glute muscle engagement.

4. Don’t let your knees go past your toes

As you bend your knee to lower your hips, make sure your knee doesn’t go past your toes. This puts unnecessary stress on the knee joint and can lead to injuries.

Curtsy lunge benefits

Adding curtsy lunges to your workout routine can offer numerous benefits. Here are some benefits associated with curtsy lunges.

1. Increases stability and balance

The curtsy lunge is a unilateral lower-body movement, meaning that it works each leg independently. This is beneficial because it can help correct any muscle imbalances [1]ResearchGate: The integration of unilateral strength training for the lower extremity within an athletic performance programme between your left and right legs. Curtsy lunges are also a great way to prepare your body for more challenging exercises, such as split squats.

2. Improves strength and muscle mass

Curtsy lunge stimulates the growth of multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This leads to an increase in strength and muscle mass over time.

3. Sculpted glutes

Any exercise that incorporates lunges employs the gluteus medius [2]ResearchGate: Training the Glutes to internally rotate the hip. Curtsy lunges incorporate this movement. This makes the curtsy lunge perfect for toning and sculpting the glutes. The gluteus medius is activated more than any other muscle in this exercise, making it an excellent choice for building toned and strong glutes. 

Variations of the curtsy lunge

To add more challenge to a curtsy lunge, you can switch things up with different variations of the curtsy lunge. Here are some variations you can try.

1. Dumbbell curtsy lunge

This lunge variation is the same as the regular curtsy lunge but with dumbbells in each hand. You can hold a dumbbell in each hand or one heavy dumbbell in the goblet position.

2. Barbell curtsy lunge

If you have access to a barbell, you can hold it on your back while performing a curtsy lunge. This variation of curtsy lunge activates more muscles in your body and challenges your balance.

3. Kettlebell curtsy lunge

In this variation, you will perform a curtsy lunge with a kettlebell in your hands. You should hold the kettlebell at your chest level throughout the movement. This not only strengthens leg muscles but also activates upper body muscles. The kettlebell also acts as a counterbalance, ensuring safety of performance.

4. Curtsy lunge pulse

Curtsy lunge pulses are a great way to add intensity to your workout without adding weight. To do a curtsy lunge pulse, perform the curtsy lunge as usual but instead of returning to starting position, hold the lunge position and pulse your hips 3-5 times.

5. Curtsy lunge kick

Curtsy lunge kicks are an excellent way to add an explosive element to your workout. To perform this variation, instead of returning to the standing position, kick your rear leg out to the side and go back to the curtsy position.

6. Smith machine curtsy lunges

If you are new to lifting weights but want to add weights to a curtsy lunge, then try the smith machine curtsy lunge. Smith machine will assist you by providing extra support to hold the barbell.

To do this variation, load the barbell with the desired weight and hold it on your shoulders. Keep your feet hip-width apart and perform a curtsy lunge as usual.

Conclusion

Curtsy lunges are a great way to tone your lower body, especially your glutes. This exercise also increases strength, stability, and coordination. Start with bodyweight curtsy lunges and gradually add weights as you get comfortable with the movement. However, consult a certified trainer before starting any new exercise routine.

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