Most people know that lunges are a great exercise. They burn your legs, they get your heart rate up, and they taste your balance. They strengthen the entire leg from the quadriceps to the glutes. Many, however, do not fully understand the benefits of being able to perform the lunge correctly or the way to progress and change your lunges.
Basic Lunge Form
To perform the basic lunge, take a big step forward leading with the heel. At the same time, come up to the ball of your foot on the back leg. Find your balance in this position before moving on. Once you feel stable, lower the back knee towards the ground keeping your weight in the heel of the front foot. Both knees should make a 90 degree angle with the ground. Press through the heel of the front foot, activating hamstrings and glutes, to move back into a standing position. Maintain a neutral spine (upright posture) throughout the movement for the basic lunge.
Lunge with a Twist
This lunge makes the exercise involves all 3 planes of motion, helping to activate the core muscles and spinal rotation. While holding a weight or a medicine ball, perform the initial phase of the basic lunge. As you lower the knee to the ground, rotate the body towards the forward knee, tightening the stomach as you move. Return back to center as you stand up, focusing on the heel. Make sure you stay in control of your body through the whole movement. If you find that you are unstable, break the steps down and make it two separate movements. Lunge-twist-return to center-stand up. Once your body learns to do that you can work towards putting it all together.
The side lunge is one of the more difficult lunges to perform correctly. For beginners, stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart with both feet pointing forward. Lean your weight to one side as you reach your hips back lowering down. Press into the foot to stand back up and then lean to the other side. The feet do not move and the toes stay pointing forward. Be sure the weight stays in the heel and that the knee stays over the foot. Once the standing side lunge becomes easily done you can move into the stepping side lunge. The movement is the same only now you need to find the right placement of the foot; not to short, not to far. If you try to think about where your foot was for the standing side lunge you should be good to go. Be careful that the foot doesn’t turn out as you step. This exercise is meant to activate the hip stabilizers more than a basic lunge.
Several day to day activities require lunges to be performed. This can be as simple as pulling something out of the car or picking up a pencil that has fallen on the ground to as complex as reaching for a drop shot on the tennis court. By training the body in the three planes of motion, you will be prepared to deal with different types of situations that our bodies face daily!