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Lunges engage core and lower-body muscles primarily, raising the heart rate slightly.
As a muscle-strengthening exercise, lunges engage core and lower-body muscles without requiring specialized equipment. Because lunges are primarily a strength-training exercise, they do not significantly raise your resting heart rate, although variations on the traditional lunge may be used to increase the intensity of this exercise. You can perform lunges as a solitary exercise and can also be included as part of a workout plan to improve your fitness and muscular definition.
Muscle Groups Used
In the basic lunge, you engage most major muscle groups in your body, except for the muscles in your arms and shoulders. A basic lunge targets the obliques, abdominus and gluteus muscles, the major muscle groups in your core. In your lower body, lunges engage thigh muscles, such as the rectus femoris and adductor longus muscle groups. If you want to modify your basic lunge to increase the intensity and engage your arm and shoulder muscles, you can vary lunges easily. Raise your arms above your head when moving into the lunge or use hand weights. These variations also increase your heart rate to a greater extent than the basic lunge.
Calculating Heart Rate
Since the impact of lunges on heart rate varies from person to person, you may want to calculate your maximum heart rate and target heart-rate zone. After performing lunges, use the tips of your first two fingers to press lightly over the blood vessels on the inside of your wrist and count your heart rate. According to the American Heart Association, your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age and your target heart-rate zone is 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. For example, a 20-year-old person would have a maximum heart rate of 200 beats per minute and a target heart-rate zone of 100 to 170 beats per minute. Use this information to determine if your heart rate during lunges is in your zone.
Lunges Slightly Elevate Heart Rate
Muscular conditioning exercises such as lunges are specifically designed to increase muscle strength through resistance. Typically, lunges elevate your heart rate only slightly, reaching only about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. In contrast, you'll notice a significantly higher heart rate with cardiovascular exercises such as jogging or biking. However, even though lunges only raise your heart rate slightly, they elicit a higher cardiovascular response than upper-body conditioning exercises. In general, the larger the muscle groups involved in an exercise, the higher your heart rate response.
Increasing Heart Rate
If you want to bump up your heart rate during lunges, a few basic variations are possible. You can increase the speed of your lunges, which will raise your heat rate slightly. You may also perform lunges while holding weights, increasing the number of muscle groups engaged in this exercise. To make lunges more of a cardiovascular exercise, engage your entire body by raising your arms above your head as you step into the lunge and increase your speed. Other variations include jumping into lunges, side lunges and back lunges, which may increase the intensity of the exercise. A lunge also makes a great addition to circuit training or any other well-rounded workout plan. You can add lunges into your circuit training of squats, deadlifts and a cardio move like jumping jacks, for example.
Lowing Heart Rate
If you want to perform lunges at a lower intensity, the easiest way to lower your heart rate is to use fewer muscle groups and to perform lunges at a slower speed. Stand up straight, with your abdominal muscles pulled in and lower into the lunges as slowly as possible. Focus on the slow, steady movements to engage the muscles in a deliberate manner and avoid reaching a higher training zone. Although you may still notice an elevation in heart rate, lowering the intensity of the exercise decreases this elevation.