Monday, February 23, 2009

The Forward Lunge

The forward lunge is the most basic of all of the single leg movements. It is also the easiest place to start for single leg movements, because while it does begin to activate the glute, it is still a quad dominant movement, thereby playing to most people's strengths, while working on their weaknesses.

It has many variations, including, walking, goblet, traveling, overhead and spiderman. Any of these can be weighted, to increase the level of difficulty. Each of them places different demands on the body, while increasing performance. Depending on loading, each of them is also a top performer for increasing strength or mobility: your choice.

Let's start with the most basic, the walking lunge. From a standing position, take one large step forward. Pressing your weight through the heel, come down by bending the front leg until the knee is bent to a 90 degree angle and the back knee touches the floor. Keeping your weight through the heel, drive back up to a standing position, so that you've taken one step forward. Repeat with the opposite leg. That's one rep. This will test:
  • Balance - did you wobble?
  • Glute strength - did you have to add a little extra movement in the upper body to get the momentum to get back up?
  • Hip mobility - was it difficult to get all the way down because of a stretch in the front of your back hip?
The traveling lunge is just a slight variation, in that the lead leg remains the lead leg until the prescribed number of reps are completed, then switch. The benefit here is that it allows you to place more stress on each leg by reducing the rest time between reps. When doing traveling lunges, I recommend that you perform with your non-dominant leg first. This will keep you from wearing yourself out on the dominant leg, and not having the energy to complete your reps with the non-dominant leg.

The goblet lunge is a weighted variation that allows you to work the legs harder without placing too much stress on the upper body. Simply hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest, close to your body. Focus on keeping your chest high so that you don't bend forward and over-stress the low back muscles.

The overhead lunge can be performed weighted or unweighted. As an unweighted movement, it challenges hip flexibility and low back stability. Simply raise your hands straight up, with the palms facing in. Now perform a walking lunge. Resist the temptation to allow the upper body to fold forward. If you add weights, in the form of dumbbells, a barbell or a keg, you will add a shoulder stability component to the movement. You will also place an excellent stress on the entire core (the girdle as it is often referred to when talking about engaging all of the muscles in a wrap-around fashion.)

Finally, the spiderman lunge is a great mobility movement, challenging range of motion in the front of the hip. It is performed unweighted, similar thot he walking lunge. The difference here is that instead of having the arms down at your sides, you put them in front of you, so that at the bottom of the movement you can touch the ground with both hands. This forces you to focus on getting low in the front in order to be able to reach the ground.

Start adding these variations into your routine to see great improvements in strength, mobility and athleticism.

Train smart; eat right.

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