I wish I could take credit for that awful pun, but I actually got that from a colleague of mine some years ago. And when he told me, it got me thinking about how important lunges are. Yes, I know, some of you (particularly clients of ours) are probably groaning – it’s true that most people, including me, really don’t like doing lunges. But it is oftentimes the things we despise the most which carry the most benefit for us.
A lunge is essentially a split-stance deep knee bend. Placing the lower extremities in a split stance while keeping the upper body stable involves a significant amount of spinal & pelvic stabilization, especially when loaded. The deep knee bending associated with the actual movement has a direct carryover effect to getting up and down from the floor. It is very rare for me to see someone get up from the floor without assuming some variation of a lunge pattern, which is why I consider the lunge a fundamental human movement pattern. Like all human movement patterns it is desirable to train it and load it progressively so we increase strength and functionality. From a more physique & figure-oriented standpoint lunges directly tax the muscles of the buttocks & thighs while indirectly involving the midsection and calves. It truly is one of the “butt-builder” exercises so many clients (mostly females) seek out.
There are many different variations to lunging (stationary, walking, multi-directional, reverse, lateral, overhead, etc.) and my goal here is not to get into all the different kinds you can do. My advice is to first find an FMS (Functional Movement Screening) practitioner to screen your lunging pattern – this will determine whether or not you have any glaring asymmetries or dysfunctional patterning which may preclude loading the movement early on. Look for someone with “CFMSP” after their name, or go onto the functionalmovement.com website and search for a local practitioner to consult with. Clearing that, work with them or a personal trainer to create a basic plan for practicing your lunges in preparation for progressive loading (aka what makes you stronger).
Some ideas on how to incorporate them into your routine are to take a few minutes 4 days/week and practice a simple walking lunge with the arms overhead, palms face forward. A set of 5 per leg is a good warmup to other activities and a couple sets help prime your body for further conditioning. I myself use this as one of my warmups before every workout. Increasing the number of repetitions per side will build more fatigue and muscular endurance (“feel the burn”), which helps with depleting the sugars in your muscles but be wary of losing your form as fatigue builds. Keeping the same number of repetitions but increasing the number of sets increases total volume so you get more practice with the movement and fatigue builds slower. There is no set scheme which fits everyone – your movement quality, goals, and exercise history must all be taken into account when programming.
Try incorporating more lunges into your overall program and even daily habits. The benefits of getting more stronger and capable with this movement are as big as the movement itself: more toned & tighter legs & buttocks, more stable core, and greater ability to get up and down from the floor easier. Get screened, have a progressive plan in hand, and think of your midday breaks as a “lunge break” – your body will thank you for it!