The overhead lunge, and lunge in general, is one of the most functional and strength-building movements you can do. This movement requires minimal equipment while working your core, legs, mobility, and stability.
Mastering the bodyweight lunge means you can progress onto more technical and challenging variations of the movement, such as overhead lunge, weighted lunge, and reverse lunge.
The overhead lunge specifically means bringing the weight away from your body, which creates instability and unilateral, multi-joint movement, which further intensifies the exercise.
Being a stable in many functional fitness programs, the overhead lunge is definitely a movement to master, and this article will help you do just that by listing the top 6 best overhead lunge variations you can do in the gym or at home with kit!
The Benefits of Doing Lunges
Lunges help to increase muscle mass and strength in the lower portion of your body, such as legs, glutes, and core. Lunges are a great movement to better define and shape the legs while improving balance, stability, and coordination.
How to Do a Lunge
Performing a lunge, particularly for the first time, should be done without weight. It’s always best to master the bodyweight version of any exercise before progressing onto adding load!
To perform a lunge, stand tall with your shoulders back and legs hip-width apart. Then:
- Step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your body until your front knee is bent at 90 degrees
- Visualise your body lowering straight down as opposed to forward and down
- Pause, then stand up though the front foot back to the starting position
- Complete the set number of reps by alternating legs or performing a full set on one leg before moving onto the other
The Benefits of Overhead Lunges
Lunges alone already work your core and stability, though overhead lunges step up that challenge significantly.
Overhead lunges isolate your quads and hamstrings by keeping your upper body tense and controlled under the pressure of a weight overhead.
This movement also stabilizes your shoulders and encourages your core muscles to engage and fully contract.
You can use any weighted object to perform an overhead lunge, such as dumbbells, a barbell, kettlebell, a plate, or a medicine ball.
Though, one key point to remember is to choose a weight in which isn’t too heavy and doesn’t compromise your form. Quality over quantity!
How to Do An Overhead Lunge
Whatever weighted option you decide to try, the mechanics and technique is the same.
Start by standing tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, then:
- Raise the weight overhead, locking out your elbow/s and keeping the weight directly overhead
- Keep your biceps by your ears and engage the muscles in your core to fully stabilize
- As you would do in a regular lunge, step one foot forward and lower your body until your knee is bent at 90 degrees
- Keep your core tight and chest up as you control the weight overhead
- Pause, and push back through your front foot back to the starting position
- Once again, repeat the movement on the alternative leg or on the same leg, depending on the type of set you’re doing
The Top 6 Best Lunge Variations
Keep referring to the above instructions to complete your overhead lunge reps, though keep reading to see the top 6 variations of the overhead lunge!
1) Dumbbell Overhead Lunge
The dumbbell overhead lunge is likely the most popular variation of overhead lunges. This movement really challenges the strength and coordination in your arms, shoulders, and core.
You can do this movement with one or two dumbbells, static, or walking.
Follow the main instructions for the movement, ensuring you’re keeping your biceps by your ears and the dumbbells locked out directly above your head.
2) Dumbbell Overhead Reverse Lunge
- The reverse lunge is much the same as the regular lunge, but instead of stepping forward, you step backwards.
- Step backwards with one leg, lowering your body into a lunge (it will look the same as a regular lunge at the bottom position)
- Using the front leg, push through your heel to raise back up to your starting position
This variation will put a bit more focus on your glutes!
3) Single-arm Dumbbell Overhead Lunge
This variation is the same as the overhead double dumbbell lunge. However, using just one weight in one hand will increase the demand on your core and body stability.
As with the dumbbell overhead lunge, keep your bicep by your ear and your arm locked out overhead.
With the other arm, either allow it to hang at your side or hold it out for extra support.
4) Barbell Overhead Lunge
Once you begin progressing with your overhead movements, a barbell would be the next step!
This piece of kit will be very effective in increasing your strength, stability, and mobility, particularly as you have the option to add much more weight to a barbell.
Though, due to being able to add more weight, it’s key to have the overhead position mastered before trying overhead lunges with a barbell.
This variation can also become a walking overhead barrel lunge, which would provide additional benefits but would require even more secure shoulder and wrist stability.
5) Overhead Plate Lunge
To do this movement, you want to grab a plate which you can easily hold overhead for at least 30 seconds. Grab the plate with both hands at 3 and 9 (in reference to a clock).
Raise the plate overhead until your arms are locked out and perform a lunge, either static or walking.
As always, ensure your core is engaged, keeping your body tight.
6) Overhead Twisted Lunge
Want an increased focus on your abs? Add a twist!
This added twist will target the core, glutes, quads, hip flexors and hamstrings while improving balance. You can do this movement with or without weight.
Start by performing a regular lunge, but instead of simply pausing at the bottom position, rest your knee on the ground while you perform a rotation to one side in the upper body.
Stand back up to the starting position and perform the movement again on the opposite side.
You can make this movement more difficult by keeping your back knee off the ground!
How To Do a Walking Overhead Lunge
A walking lunge is much the same as the regular static lunge, though with an added walking element. At the bottom of the lunge, instead of stepping your front foot back to stand up to the starting position, raise and bring your back foot forward so you step forward with each rep, like walking.
This movement would allow you to add weight and intensity to the movement to better challenge your lower body and promoting muscle strength and growth.
Common Lunge Mistakes
If you find you’re struggling with any variations of the overhead lunge, it’s important to strip it back and take a proper look at what you’re doing.
Is your weight too heavy?
This will compromise your form and make it much more difficult to perform the movement.
Are you finding it difficult to hold the weight locked out above your head?
This is another indication of the weight being too heavy.
Do you have poor shoulder mobility?
Maybe practice easier overhead movements first and work on your shoulder mobility.
Do you have a weak core?
This may also be a boundary to successfully performing this movement.
Is your stance too narrow?
You should be shoulder-width apart at the starting position and throughout the movement.
Have you looked at your posture?
Perform the movement in a mirror and assess whether your shoulders are remaining vertical over the hips with a braced core and upright chest.
Our advice: begin by focusing simply on your bodyweight lunge form before working up to variations. Incorporate plenty of core and mobility movements into your workouts to ensure your body is primed for overhead!
Final Word On Lunges
The lunge and overhead lunge variations are a simple, yet very effective functional movement.
By incorporating variations of lunge into your workout routine, you can increase strength, stability, and coordination.
Make these variations more challenging by increasing speed, reps, load, and intensity, and watch your muscle grow and your fat shred!