Hi friends! Today I’m so excited to bring you a guest post from one of my fellow blogger friends. Jess is a ACSM certified personal trainer, yoga teacher, and fellow health and fitness blogger at Hello to Fit. She’s going to walk us through how to rock perfect lunges during a workout.
If someone asked you to name a bunch of leg exercises, would lunges make the list? While it is an “easy” exercise to remember to do, lunges are also easily performed incorrectly.
Performing lunges the correct way has a TON of benefits, including stronger hamstrings, quads, and glutes. Lunges also require balance and control through the core (abs and back must be engaged, good posture is required). Without the proper mechanics, you could be more susceptible to knee, back, and/or hip injury. Yikes!
Why We Need Strong Legs
Leg strength isn’t just about aesthetics. Sure, a strong booty and muscular legs looks good. But once you look past that and focus on the functional aspects of stronger muscles, it’s like woah. THAT’S why I need to be strong.
Stronger legs (and core, and upper body…) help us with basically every aspect of our daily lives:
- Increased endurance to complete chores around the house, yard work, etc.
- Better body mechanics when lifting things, such as our children, baskets of laundry, moving boxes, weights we use at the gym
- Less compensating with other muscles and joints (if our glutes and hamstrings are stronger, we are less inclined to use our spine, knee joints, and over-active quadrieceps muscles)
- More muscle mass, higher fat-burning capability in the body
Proper Lunge Form
When I’m learning a new exercise it can be SUPER helpful to see it done correctly AND incorrectly. Knowing how to NOT do something can be beneficial, especially if you are strength training on your own, without the extra pair of eyes from a friend or personal trainer.
Without further ado, let’s break down the lunge exercise, shall we?
Let’s start from the feet up. Ideally, feet would be separated enough so that you can bend both knees comfortably, without feeling like you’re about to do the SPLITS:
- Back heel should stay lifted while you perform the lunging motion
- Both knees will bend, but the front leg is doing most of the work. Pain in the back knee could be an indicator that your back knee is working too much
- Shift forward onto your front heel, and push the hips back in space – this will allow the glutes to work more than quads and spine
- Front knee should be right above the ankle to minimize knee joint issues
- Something to consider: many people will lunge with the upper body 100% erect, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But try hinging forward a tad so that your body is in more of a slight inclined position. This should allow, again, more of your GLUTES to work (read more from trainer Nick Tuminello here).
- As with any exercise, keep abs tight to support the trunk!
Here’s a different view, so you can check out alignment for the front of the body. You can see that the knee is pointing pretty straight on, and again: both knees bend.
Incorrect Examples of the Lunge
From this side angle, let’s look at two ways that lunges are performed INcorrectly:
In the above photo, you can see that the front knee bends way past the toes. Not necessarily a terrible thing, since our day-to-day movement probably involves bending with knees past our toes. However, it could become an issue because now there is more force through the knee JOINT, rather than the muscles surrounding.
In this second example, things don’t look too bad, right? My back is still straight, I’m leaning slightly forward for more glute and hamstring engagement, but my stance is off. Have the legs too close together could be wonky on the knees and hips.
Remember the front view of a correct lunge? Above is a (very) incorrect version of a lunge. This is one of the most common form issues I see with clients; you can tell that the knee pushes in towards the midline of the body. While a physical therapist would have a much better idea of what’s going on if he or she were to evaluate a knee that pushes in like that, causes could be weakness in the hips and glutes. Engaging them enough would pull the knee back over the ankle.
What Are You Waiting For?
With a better understanding of correct – and incorrect – form for lunges, now you know how to rock perfect lunges.
Lunges, along with any muscle-strengthening exercise, aren’t just great for our body composition. Having more muscle mass helps us perform activities of daily living with more ease and efficiency. Being stronger can help us endure LIFE: our kids, jobs, and workouts. Most importantly, it could help us avoid potential injury from compensating with joints.
Jess is an ACSM certified personal trainer and yoga teacher in Charlottesville, VA. Through her personal training and blogging, she hopes to share her experiences with living a balanced lifestyle: a lifestyle that includes an emphasis on strength and core training, moving as much as we can for health, while also enjoying those moments of indulgence. Check out www.hellotofit.com for more!