What is it? Just as the name suggests, the lunge involves ‘lunging’ (stepping) a leg forward or back so that the front foot is planted flat on the ground with the front and back knees bent at approximately 90 degree angles.
- Compound exercise that utilises all the major leg muscles
- Highly functional movement with great crossover to many athletic and everyday movement patterns such as running and walking
- Improves hip flexibility
- Increases core strength and stability
- Improves balance and coordination
Main muscles worked
- Core stabilisers
Common errors and remedies
Knee valgus (knees caving in)
One of the most common errors we see when lunging is the front knee caving in toward the centerline of the body. This usually occurs as the result of muscle imbalances, dysfunction or tightness. If weak glutes/hip abductors are the cause then strengthening and pre-activation exercises will help. Band walks will help the hip muscles to fire and knees to track correctly.
Remedy – When lunging, think about pushing the front knee slightly towards the outside of the foot. This will help to activate the hip abductors and direct the kneecap to track in line with the middle toe, rather than in towards the midline of the body.
Poor core activation and upper body posture
Letting the shoulders and upper back round forward and looking down is another common problem. This tends to switch off important core and postural muscles through the abdominals and upper back and increases the risk of lower back strain.
Remedy – focus on opening the chest as you lunge whilst drawing the shoulder blades back and down to engage the postural muscles of the upper back. To get the abdominals firing think about drawing up through your pelvic floor and drawing your belly button in towards your spine. And of course, look straight ahead.
Not going deep enough
As with most other exercises the most benefit is gained when working a full range of motion. If full range of motion is not used, less muscle fibers will be used, and less strength will be gained from the exercise. Unless you have a specific injury which limits your range of movement you should aim to get both your front and back knees to a 90 degree bend when lunging.
Remedy – try putting a block (about fist height) on the floor. Aim to lunge until your knee hits the block. It will be instant feedback and you’ll know you’ve hit full range.
Progressions and variations
Prisoner lunge – extra core and balance
Prisoner lunges add an extra challenge for balance and core engagement. To perform a prisoner lunge:
- Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Interlock your fingers and place both hands behind your head with elbows pointing out to the sides.
- Step your left foot forward into a long stance and bend your knees until both knees are at approximately 90 degree angles and front thigh is parallel with the ground.
- To return to start position push off through your front foot, engaging core as you bring the front foot up to a high knee balance then place back on ground. Continue alternating sides.
Bulgarian split lunges
The Bulgarian split lunge is performed like a normal static lunge except the back foot is elevated on a bench or step. Having the rear foot elevated places more emphasis on the front leg and also requires more core stability to balance. This exercise works all the major leg muscle groups – quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves while also stretching the hip flexors which are prone to tightness. To perform a Bulgarian split lunge:
- Find a bench, step or something that is approximately knee height to elevate your back foot on.
- Get into a lunge position with your back foot on bench and front foot on ground, knee over ankle with your hips square and core engaged.
- Lower until your front thigh is almost parallel with the ground, knee tracking just in front of ankle but not going forward over toes.
- From the bottom of the movement, drive your front foot into the floor, engaging your front glute and quad and return to the top of the lunge. Repeat for desired amount of reps on each leg, with or without weight.
TRX Sprinter Lunges
This is a great one for adding a little explosive power into your lunge whilst using the TRX straps to assist balance. To perform these:
- Start standing away from the TRX anchor with straps under the arms and hands on the handles
- Walk forward and step your right foot back into a long lunge stance. Bend back knee down until it is a few cm off ground then push off through front left foot into an explosive hop, bringing your right knee up into a high knee.
- Place right foot back into the lunge stance again and repeat for desired reps on each side.
We get a kick out of seeing our clients perform exercises perfectly. But we also understand that injury and body limitations can play a factor. So we also get a kick out of you trying your best.
If you’re not sure if you’re doing it correctly, pop in and see us. We’ll help you out.