The Lunge, Part I
By Gerard Bochese
The lunge is a highly functional exercise, and since activation of all the muscles surrounding the hip joint is required in a lunge, it is an excellent exercise for improving the general strength and stability of the lower extremities. There are numerous versions of the lunge that train the nervous system to move in patterns that translate directly to many work and sports situations. Good postural alignment, balance, agility, and coordination are also trained when performing the lunge.
The lunge pattern can be progressed or regressed in many ways, making it more or less neurologically demanding, and can therefore be used as an exercise for many different levels of skill and stages of conditioning.
To begin training the lunge pattern, start with the forward lunge. It is important to perform the lunge correctly or it will emphasize the quads and strain the lower back.
1) Begin by taking a deep diaphragmatic breath (fill the belly rather than filling the chest) and draw your belly button inward toward your spine to activate the deep abdominal wall called the transverse abdominis.
2) Hold an upright posture throughout the exercise with chest up, shoulders back, and heading looking forward. Step forward into the lunge. Ensure that you take a large enough step to keep the front shin vertical when the back knee touches the floor. This will ensure that your front thigh is parallel to the floor, encouraging maximal glute activation. If you have a hard time feeling the butt muscles (glutes) working during the lunge, push off the heel of your foot when you are pushing yourself back up. Driving off the heel requires more glute activation while driving off the balls of your feet encourages quad activation.
3) Do not let the front knee drop inward. Your weight should be equally distributed over both legs and your body centered between both feet.
Once you’ve mastered the basic lunge, you can move on to more complex movements (which we’ll get into next week).