The five lunges you should be doing and the one you shouldn’t
A lunge is one of the quintessential movement patterns that every person should do. Lunges are great for your quads, your booty, and even your inner thighs!
They are also a balance exercise that challenges your core and hip stability.
Additionally, when it comes to things like getting on and off the ground or building the basic strength necessary for any athletic activity, you can’t beat the lunge.
Right off the bat, there are three things you should know about the lunge:
1) A lunge is basically a single leg squat. The back foot is there for stabilization, not for pushing.
2) The action is moving your back knee straight down to just above the ground. Don’t think about bending your front leg; it will just mess with your mind more than help your lunge.
3) Lean/hinge forward a little bit. If your shins don’t stay totally vertical, that’s OK, but make sure your knee doesn’t come past the ball of your foot and your heel stays flat on the ground.
Now that you know why and how to lunge, there are many different types of lunges, most of which have an appropriate time and place. These are the five best ones and why you would use them:
1. Reverse lunges
The reverse lunge is simply the best lunge for loading heavy. It’s great for building strength and definition.
2. Side lunges
I bet you don’t move laterally that often, right? Side lunges are awesome for sports involving cutting, and they torch your adductors (groin/inner thigh muscles). Additionally, the soreness they cause will keep you far away from silly machines that involve squeezing your thighs together and then spreading them apart.
Bringing weight from the ground to above your head is the most efficient form of exercise there is. A single-arm overhead lunge helps drill many pieces of those mechanics and builds the strength necessary for everything from a Turkish getup to a snatch.
This is an oblique burner! Lunging is a hard enough core exercise already, but adding a heavy weight to only one side takes it to a new level. The heavier the weight, the harder you are going to have to work to keep from rotating.
This is the hardest lunge variation known to man and not for the faint of heart. Elevating your back leg really shows you how similar a lunge is to a single leg squat. This movement gives you a lot less help from your stabilizing leg (back leg) and a much deeper burn in your quads and booty.
These five lunge variations are the only ones you’ll ever need.
There is a sixth lunge you shouldn’t be doing, and unfortunately it’s all too common: the back to start, forward lunge.
If you are going to lunge forward, just keep moving forward and do some walking lunges. They’re harder to do with good form than any of the others above, simply because you have to totally reset every rep, but I like walking lunges with light weights or no weights as a good way to mix things up.
There is never a situation in which you should lunge forward and then bounce backward to standing. It just doesn’t make mechanical sense. The action of the lunge is to stand up on the front leg, not to push backward against the ground. If you want to practice moving backward, go jog up a hill in reverse. (Seriously, it is like the hardest thing ever.)
Let’s put all the lunges you’ve learned together into one workout that will leave you feeling good… or possibly totally destroyed:
Do two rounds of each superset; take a 30-second rest between exercises and a two-minute rest between rounds.
1a) Bulgarian split squats x 4 (each leg)
1b) Side lunges x 5 (each leg)
2a) Single-arm overhead reverse lunges x 6 (each leg)
2b) Unilaterally loaded reverse lunges x 7 (each leg)
3a) Reverse lunges x 8 (each leg)
3b) Cry and do dynamic couch stretch for 30 seconds (each side)
Good luck—you’ll need it.
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