Bending, it seems, is a critical part of being a healthy human. Every day we buckle and bend for the day's twists and turns – when picking up a child, a heavy box or grocery bags off the floor, for example. We also do lunges when we exercise, or should do in any case. That’s because they are a dynamic and functional inclusion in anyone’s training; lunges train your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core, and best of all, they hit them all at once to burn major calories. But, some major problems can unfold if you are bending badly or lunging incorrectly, and so it would be wise of us all, exercising or not, to learn how to lunge properly. David Fabricius, a registered biokineticist from Cape Town, has given us in-depth advice on how to lunge with poise.
Lunge patterns are an excellent way to train the entire lower body while improving overall balance, strength, endurance and flexibility, says David. “Frontal (sideways) and transverse (rotation) lunge patterns can even improve an athlete’s movements in activities such as reaching in tennis, cutting to the side in basketball, or the pivot and go movement that a wing may perform in rugby union,” says David.
A “bad” lunge includes movements with incorrect technique or form, which can come from an array of sources: someone not aware of correct technique, using far too heavy weights or from fatigue performing this exercise too late into a training workout. And incorrect form can put the whole body out of kilter, unduly loading your joints and causing injuries, particularly to your hip, knee and lower back.
Start in an upright, neutral spine posture with your core activated, with dumbbells at sides, shoulder blades pulled back and down, arms straight, and palms facing in. Position feet hip-width apart with toes pointed straight ahead.
• Take an exaggerated step forward, keeping feet hip-width apart with toes pointed straight ahead, with the arms towards the floor.
• Pivot around the forward hip until the front thigh is parallel with the floor.
• The torso should come forward to a 35 – 45° angle with back flat and straight. Allow heel of rear foot to rise up while knee of rear leg bends slightly until it almost makes contact with floor (10cm above floor). Push through the heel of the front foot to return to the start position.
• There should be no excessive motion in the spine as you push yourself back to the start.
• Your head, trunk, and pelvis should be in neutral position to begin and remain relatively stationary throughout the motion.
You should feel as if you are able to maintain good alignment throughout the pattern and should feel as if your front hip and leg is doing most of the work.
Mistakes we commonly make:
• Stepping out too shallowly, causing the front knee to extend past the lead foot.
• Allowing the torso to flex forward during the forward movement phase.
• Quickly jerking the torso backward during the backward movement phase.
• Stutter-stepping backward during the backward movement phase.
• Not maintaining a neutral pelvis or spine.
• Not making sure that your hips and shoulders remain square to the direction facing forward throughout the entire movement.
• Not keeping your weight on the front heel with your back heel pointed to the sky to prevent it from rolling to the side.
In short, remember:
• Keep a sufficient amount of flexibility in your hips, thighs and calves to allow for a full range lunge.
• Use a mirror to assist with visual feedback of correct form.
• Start with bodyweight then progress to using weights for additional resistance.