So, I hop into gyms around the city in between my clients, since I travel to their homes and need to squeeze in my workouts where I can. I normally keep to myself, throw my favourite DJ Jayceeoh mix on my iPod and don't really pay attention to what's going on around me. I'm constantly monitoring and tweaking while at work, so when I am at the gym, my focus is predominantly on my own efforts, and the physiological happenings in my own body. This being said, something caught my eye the other day and I could barely help but scoul. A trainer was teaching their client a walking lunge. The front knee was so far beyond the toe, the back leg was STRAIGHT, not bent, and of course... the girl giving the demonstration had zero glute definition and will probably have bad knees in a couple years. I sound vile, awful and critical. But it's really time that people get this basic exercise right. It makes my insides hurt to see it executed so sloppily.
In any kind of lunge, whether it be a drop lunge (stepping back into a lunge), a static lunge (keeping the feet in the same position and dropping down then pressing back up - also called a split squat), a forward lunge (obvious) or a walking lunge - the principles are always the same. Please remember these tips:
Your front heel must be dug tightly into the floor. This recruits the front glute with full force (lifting, tightening, strengthening the butt - who doesn't want that??), and also protects the knee. By digging your heel in, you prevent your front knee from moving forward. It hovers, rather, over the front ankle, therefore placing the load perfectly on the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
Your back knee must bend into a 90 degree angle (the same angle your front knee will be in, over the ankle), and the back knee must line up with the neighbouring hip and shoulder. This knee will sit a couple inches above the floor at the bottom of the exercise (basically the load must always remain deposited in the front heel and not be compromised - very important!!!).
Your torso needs to be solid, straight and held tall. Since your back knee aligns with your shoulders, your shoulders must be slightly held back, and the chest lifted forward. Your core is tightly engaged, ready to tackle any instability or lack of balance. This lack of balance will challenge the core directly and recruit all stabilizer muscles, thus speeding results and increasing your caloric burn.
IF you have lower back pain, you may hinge forward oh-so-slightly at the hips, but be sure to squeeze your ribcage toward your hipbone to keep your abdominals held tightly against the spine.
This is how you build from the inside out. Learn to do it right in the beginning, and don't waste any of your time or effort doing it wrong. Most people feel their lunges predominantly in the back quad which reaches in an excrutiating manner toward the floor. As your glutes become better conditioned, you will be able to squeeze the front glute, and tightly use it to push the floor away, feeling this one greatly in the glutes as well.
If you want an extra challenge, use ONLY the heel of the front foot. It becomes more of a balance challenge - requires more core recruitment, and also really bites the glutes!
In a walking lunge, step your foot first, think about where the weight is deposited (heel) and then drop straight down into your two 90 degree angles in the legs. Don't keep the energy always slanted forward - make sure your muscles will get the most bang for their buck by being patient and getting it right.Â Normally my clients who tell me they hate lunges have been doing them improperly. It leads to injury, muscle imbalance and joint pain (to name a few).
There are hundreds of variations of this exercises (on a BOSU, Bulgarian Split Squats, jumping split squats, drop lunge with kick, forward/backward lunge....) so it really is a beautiful one to master!
Feedback always welcomed........