Timeless movements: The lunge
Why it works: The Lunge (reverse lunge variation pictured) and all its variations are phenomenal for developing lower body strength, hypertrophy, power, and stability. In its purest form it is one of the fundamental basic human movement patterns and can be applied and seen in many sports or just everyday life. Also because it is a unilateral exercise it has great potential to strengthen not only the prime movers of the lower body, but also the supporting musculature and stabilizers that are key in stability, balance, and injury reduction assuming the exercise is performed properly. If the lunge is not included in some form or fashion in your strength and conditioning program you are missing out on some huge performance gains!
Proper Form: Because the lunge is a unilateral exercise it has a slightly higher level of complexity. Understand that you will not be able to load the movement as heavy as its other lower body counterparts like the squat and deadlift variations. The attached video demonstrates proper technique for the reverse lunge variation. The movement starts with hip and knee flexion until the femur of the front leg is parallel to the ground. Once loaded, pull back to the starting position using hip drive-pushing your front foot through the floor. Most of the weight distribution will be over the front leg as the support leg aids mainly with balance. Make sure to maintain a stable foot, knee control, and posture throughout the whole movement.
How often should you do it: There are many variations of the lunge. Depending on your training goals the lunge and its variants could be used up to 3x a week. It can be used as one of your primary compound movements or as an assistance/auxiliary exercise after squats/deadlifts/etc. Regardless of when, where and how often you use the lunge it should be a staple in any program training athletes, tactical professionals, or your average weight room warrior.
What muscles are in play: Essentially every muscle in the lower body/core: Glutes, hamstrings, knee extensors (Quads), foot/ankle stabilizers, and supporting core musculature. Depending on how you choose to load the movement (DBs, Barbells, KBs etc.) you could even argue spinal erectors, trapezius, forearms, and the list goes on. It is a great multi joint movement and has tons of carryover to sport and everyday life.
Something else you should know: Like any other exercise proper technique and proper loading plans and periodization are crucial. Know proper progressions and regressions that are appropriate for the individual you are working with. Contact a certified strength and conditioning specialist for insight on how to incorporate into your program or for proper instruction on performing the lunge along with all the other basic movement patterns (squat, hinge, pushes, pulls, rotation, etc.)
Sanford POWER has been developing athletes for 20 years – some things change and some things are here to stay. The Lunge and its variations are some of those “timeless” movements –Bismarck POWER Chris Rivinius, CSCS, USAW, TSAC-F breaks down the lunge.