From Fitness Director, Rob Kram
Lunges are one of the 8 major movements of the human body, therefore everyone needs to lunge. From bending down and picking up groceries, to extreme athletic endeavors, the lunge is a vital part of almost all activity. There are many ways to lunge, and like the debates on “the proper squat” there is no one right way. There used to be training for fitness professionals to coach the client to never allow their knees to go past their toes on the front foot. Although this is a safe cue to use, more modern observation has opened our perspectives to understand that the knee can get well past the toes in many functional lunging movements.
A simple way to think about lunges is to do them in every direction possible and adjust any load you may be carrying depending on which movements are the most difficult for you. For example, in a slow static lunge (standing still with no movement of the feet) you may be able to use very heavy dumbbells in each hand. Then for a faster plyometric lunge (jumping in the air while switching legs) there may not be any need for load at all. The idea of adjusting load applies to the range of motion as well. The lower you go and the more past your toes your knees go, the less load you will want to be carrying so as to not exceed the load capacity of the knee joint when it’s at its most open and therefore vulnerable position. For example, a lunge down to 90 degrees at the knee and hip can be loaded much heavier than a lunge that requires touching the floor with your fingertips in front of your front foot.
Some additional tips for lunging:
- Mix it up and go in every direction and at every speed
- Loaded lunges are great for building muscle, but loaded on one side engages more stabilizers and are better for core stability
- Mentally focus on what you want to work the most. If you activate the glutes it will work harder than the quads and vice versa.
- Using a lunge stance as the base for other upper body exercises is a great way to be more efficient and turn simple bicep curls or overhead presses into a full body workout.
- Mobility work and myofascial release techniques can help you get the most out of your lunges.
- Become conscious of what your core is doing at specific point so of the lunge and breathe to engage
- Tight hip flexors can limit range of motion so use the lunges to help lengthen them by actively engaging the glute muscle of the rear leg.