Most workouts involve some form of lunging, from yoga (hey, warrior poses) to HIIT class. Turns out, there’s a good reason for that.
“Lunges are a great way to strengthen the posterior chain (the backside of the body) to combat our sitting culture that leads to a weak backside — something that’s becoming too commonplace,” explains Chris Ryan, a certified strength and conditioning coach. “Strong hips and glutes offer a better foundation for your spine, so strengthening your posterior chain really benefits your whole body!”
But to reap all the benefits of lunge exercises, you’ll need to clean up your form. Here are five simple pointers straight from the pros.
KEEP YOUR FRONT SHIN VERTICAL
“When your knee tracks out over your toes, you put undue stress on your knee and make it much more of a quad-dominant exercise,” Ryan notes. Since most people already have pretty strong quads, adjust the exercise to focus on your posterior chain (back, glutes and hamstrings) instead. “Lunges with a vertical shin give you that strong backside you have always wanted,” Ryan adds.
ACT LIKE YOUR BACK LEG DOESN’T EXIST
“Lunges are really a single leg exercise when done right,” Ryan says. That means you shouldn’t be using both legs to power the movement. “Only concentrate on your front leg whether you are doing a forward or reverse lunge (yes, the rules are the same) and don’t push off at all with your back foot/toe,” he instructs. “You will be robbing yourself of mobility, strength and coordination if you do so.”
POWER THROUGH YOUR FRONT HEEL
Once you’ve mastered using your front leg only, punch through your front heel to stand up as much as possible, Ryan recommends. “By literally powering your heel down in the ground, you ensure proper hip and glute engagement. Your butt will be tighter and stronger, while keeping your knees safe.”
KEEP YOUR FEET HIP-WIDTH APART
Taking a narrow stance in a lunge is a no-no, experts say. “Many times, I see people try to lunge with their back and front legs in a perfect straight line,”says Greg Pignataro, certified strength and conditioning coach at Grindset Fitness. “This throws off both your strength and balance and should be avoided.” Instead, step your foot back or forward on a slight angle to keep some space between your feet.
ELEVATE YOUR FRONT OR BACK FOOT STRATEGICALLY
If you’ve got all of the above down, you can get a little creative to increase the benefits of lunging. “Using a weight plate or step to elevate the front foot (for increased glute and hamstring activation) or back foot (for increased glute and quad activation) of a lunge is a fantastic way to increase the level of challenge for individuals experienced with lunges,” Pignataro points out. It should be noted, though, that all the same rules apply to these variations.