How to Lunge
The lunge is another lower body focused exercise that also develops great strength & condition through the trunk. It's great for developing your postural control. If you don’t keep the core strong then it’s much more difficult to keep the body stable and complete the movement effectively.
At first glance the lunge can seem really easy, but it's one of those moves that is easy to do badly and is often rushed in order to get through a set. When that happens the core goes and the knee rolls forward and you lose the benefit of the exercise.
This is also another key functional movement. It mirrors what we do when we climb stairs or hills. We have to control our body as we shift our weight from one foot to the other and we have to work to control our forward movement so we don't take the strain into the knee.
As with any move you need to think about what you are trying to achieve with that move.
What are we working? Legs, Bum, Core.
How? The basic body-weight move.
When you start working with the lunge it's important to break the move down into it's key stages. This gives you a chance to be stable through the movement so you don't struggle, then as you get more used to the move you can make it more fluid.
That said, don't rush through the phases no matter how good you get.
Stand up nice & tall with your feet hip width apart. You can place your hands on your hips or behind your head lengthen the body and engage the core more.
Take a big step forward ensuring that your feet are still hip width apart. A lot of people place the front foot almost directly in front of the back leg. This gives you a very narrow platform to work off. The leg can swing in naturally so you have to counteract that by consciously taking the leg out wide. Even though it may feel weird and like it's going out too far you'll more than likely find that the foot is directly in front of the hip joint, which is where you want it to be.
Keep your eyes out front, don’t look down. Wherever your eyes go your body will follow. If you look at the floor your trunk will tip forward, your weight will follow it and you'll roll up onto the ball of the front foot pushing the knee forward and possibly risking overloading it.
As soon as you plant that front foot, stop. Give yourself a beat to assess your balance and body position. This beat arrests your forward momentum to stop you having a wobble or tipping forward.
Bend the back knee. Shifting focus to the back leg helps you to keep the trunk upright and stops you rolling forward, keeping the weight on the front heel, then sink down vertically into the lunge position. Don't worry about the front leg it'll follow suit.
Keep the back heel over the toe. Keep an eye on the position of your back heel. It can sometimes fall in which will throw you off balance and send a twisting movement into the back knee joint.
Kiss the ground with your back knee. Don't cut the move short or crash the knee into the ground. Keep everything controlled, then push smoothly but strongly through the heels of the front leg and forefoot of the back leg until both legs are straight. Shift your hips back as you press down and return to standing.
Change legs and repeat.
This can be pretty challenging the first time you do it but it’s worth persevering, as it builds great strength & stability in the legs, hips & core.
If however, if it proves too challenging there are some modifications you can use to make it a little easier.
Modifications to the Lunge
This is a very simple modification, exactly the same as for the regular lunge except you take a step backwards instead of forwards. It's not necessarily easier than the front leg but takes the load off the front leg and still works the hips and legs in a similar way.
The key thing to remember with a Reverse Lunge is that you as you are stepping back you can't see where you are putting the foot. It's easy to take too small or too narrow a step, or place the rear foot down with the heel rolling in so you struggle with balance.
Much the same as with the Front Lunge, take a big, wide step back. Bigger and wider than you might think is needed. Give yourself a beat when you plant the foot before you sink into the lunge so you have the chance to assess your position, then bend the back knee and sink into the lunge.
If you feel like you are struggling for balance it's usually because the step is too narrow or the back heel is rolling in. Take a big step back and press the heel out so it feels like it sits directly over the toes.
From the bottom of the lunge, press down through the front heel and rear forefoot to straighten the leg, bring the back leg to standing and repeat on the other side.
Static Lunge (or Split Squat)
This is, as the name suggests, a static version of the lunge.
Some people actually find it a bit tougher than a regular lunge, but if you are struggling with stability and the movement of the lunge & reverse lunge then this can help you build strength in a less dynamic way.
Start from a kneeling position with both the front and back leg bent to 90 degrees and the trunk nice and tall so your head, shoulders, waist and back knee are pretty much in line. The shin of the front leg should be about 90 degrees to the floor.
Start the move from the belly button. Squeeze tight then take that into the legs and straighten.
Hold at the top for a beat, keep the feet where they are and return the knees to the floor. Kiss the ground and repeat for the prescribed reps on one leg, then repeat on the other.
This progression is brilliant for building balance and control that is really useful for running. Mechanically it's a combination of elements of the front and reverse lunge.
Keeping the trunk up nice and tall and the eyes out front, take a big step forward, feet hip-width apart.
Plant the foot and give your self a beat to stabilise then kiss the ground with your back knee.
From the bottom of the lunge press the front heel into the floor as you shift your weight forward and bring the back leg through into the next lunge.
If you can do this without touching the foot down brilliant, but don't worry if you need to tap to balance, you get it it with practice.
These are just a few versions of the lunge that you can incorporate into your workouts. Take your time and nail the technique and your strength will come. Once you feel strong with these moves you can start working with more advanced versions of the lunge.
I hope you've enjoyed this one and found it useful. Feel free to share, like and comment.
All the best