The lunge is one of the best leg and glute developers for the lower body. Not to mention it’s also one of the most versatile; you can perform forward lunges, reverse lunges, side lunges, lunges with weights hanging, racked, or overheard, and more. To perform a lunge you need balance and control, and that is where many people make mistakes.
Mistake #1: Not ‘bracing’ before you lunge. When you lunge you are going to spend 2 parts of the movement on one leg; either forward and backward or side-to-side. Simply standing still requires our core to keep our bodies from falling over. We’ve been doing this every day since we were children so it’s hardly noticeable. However, go on one leg and all-of-a-sudden you have to focus (most of us any way). Add weight to the movement and now our core has to work that much harder to keep us steady. Instead of performing the lunge to build up your lower body, you are now focused on not falling over.
Fix this by ‘bracing’. Bracing is the act of tightening your entire core like a steel barrel. A simple way of ‘bracing’ is to pretend as if someone is going to slap you in the belly. How would you brace for the impact? That is bracing. Take a ‘sip’ of air to help you hold the ‘bracing’ feeling. Perform your lunge and return to your start position. Once your moving leg returns to its start position you may relax. Continue to ‘re-brace’ every step. Keep yourself tight and the lunge will work better and your legs will reap the benefits.
Mistake #2: Not tracking knees over toes. If there’s one universal rule for the majority of leg exercises it’s to keep your knees in-line with your toes. Knees can stay behind your toes or over your toes. Anything else, such as your knees turning in or out, will lead to serious knee pain down the road. Why? Your knee is considered a stabilizer of the lower body. You can extend or bend your knee but there’s not much ‘wiggle’ room. Ankles are mobile, hips are mobile, but knees are the stable link between the two. Bend your knees inward or outward and there will eventually be strain on the ligaments stabilizing your knee joint.
Fix this by glancing down at your lead foot. Does your knee cave inward? Push out. Does it lean outward? Bring it back in. If this doesn’t work then I suggest substituting split squats into your workout. It’ll work in a similar fashion to your lunge and strengthen similar muscles. Once you get this under control then go back to your lunge pattern.
Mistake #3: Not keeping hips squared. The easiest way to know if you’re not keeping you hips squared is to see what’s happening with your rear leg when you lunge forward. Does your rear foot turn outward? Then, your hips are not squared. Why are squared hips important? When you lunge forward you are not only strengthening your muscles, you’re stretching them as well. A group of muscles that get a great stretch and improve range of motion during a lunge are the anterior hip flexors. Most of us have extremely tight hip flexors from sitting all day. Over time this can lead to chronic low back pain. Lunges, performed with squared hips, act as therapy and relief for these muscles.
Fix this by trying to kneel down when you step forward on the lunge. If you’re having difficulty it could be due to 1) turning your rear foot outward or 2) tight hip flexors. If you corrected issue 1 and you still can’t kneel down without your hips turning perform a dowel split squat. Simply kneel down on the ground without any weight (make sure you front and rear leg are 90 degrees). Hold a dowel (aka broomstick) vertically with both hands on it. Use the dowel to help you stand straight up from the kneeling position (keep your feet where they are). Kneel back down without shifting your weight forward. You should feel a deep stretch in your rear hip. Perform this 10-12x on each leg. Once you’ve done this for several weeks try your lunge again without any weight. If it’s good, pick up some weight and get to work!
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