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Lunges Are Essential For Your Fitness Success. Read This To Find Out Why

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 16 April 2016
Hits: 14447

Many people are not big fans of the lunge and the main reasons are, that is hard to do and that it really hurts your muscles quite quickly leaving you with the muscle soreness for days afterwards. However, if I could only do one exercise, it would be the lunge, and this article I will show you why. The strength gains you get from just a few sets of these is incredible but the benefits to your body are much more than just stronger legs. When people ask me "why do I need to do lunges" or even worse, "I have been told lunges are bad for your knees and not to do them". I then explain that without the lunge you lose your ability to move efficiently and will not be able to get up off the floor! Meaning that getting out of bed or being able to get to ground as much as get back up, now is going to become impossible. If you don't believe me try for yourself to get up off the ground onto your feet without using what looks like a lunge stance at any point. You will need to have some gymnastic skills to do this without the lunge. But how does this happen and why does it seem to hurt much more than other leg exercise like squats, the leg press or even step ups? The reason is due to poor posture, meaning the lunge is actually correcting your poor posture. Which brings me to my first reason why lunges are so important to fitness success.

Lunges Improve Posture & Prevent Injury

Having specialized working with sporting athletes and people with injury and rehabilitation for over 13 years now, one of the most common weaknesses I see common to people of all ages is within the single leg stance and the LUNGE.

The number one reason the lunge is hard to do and why it hurts so much is from three things

  1. Lack of exercise
  2. Exercise with no emphasis on technique
  3. And the fact most of us now lead a sedentary lifestyle of sitting too much.

Combine this with poor body awareness, poor movement skills and coordination, you now have the perfect recipe to create excessively tight hips that will ruin your ability to lunge. The lunge is unique from other movements like the squat in that it demands great hip mobility! Poor training techniques, overuse of abdominal exercises and lack of stretching all contribute to stiff hips. And once you add hours of sitting on top of this you will tighten up more than just your hip flexors. With the hamstrings, calf muscles, and the external hip rotator muscles all becoming stiff and tight, leading to restricted movement at the hip joint and reduced extension through the lower back. This is a massive problem with hip impingement injuries, and is a big predictor of ACL injuries in females which we see more and more of every year.

Read our article - Are Your Tight Hips The Cause Of Your Back or Knee Pain for more information on hip stiffness.

This tightness leads to many of the lower limb injuries but also problems in the upper body. This postural imbalance is commonly known as Lower Cross Syndrome as seen in picture 3 below.


Approximately 90% of the clients we work with have this postural fault. Now when you go to the gym to try and stretch these short tight muscles out by doing a lunge the body is not happy at all! All day long you have been keeping these hip flexor muscles tightened up and short, and now you want to stretch them, with a load on top of it as well!! Your body-weight is enough load to create some damage in the muscle fibers that make the exercise very tiring and also your legs very sore for days. But there is good news out of all this believe it or not.

This exercise when you learn how to do it right will begin to correct your posture imbalance and prevent back pain, knee pain and almost any other leg injury you can think of. For the lunge itself now becomes a very important postural corrective exercise. With knee pain this movement is often the hardest to do, and the most painful, and this is due to the tight hips and quads preventing the knee joint from achieving a range it should be able to do. A chain reaction of compensation sets in if this is left unattended leaving many weak muscles VMO and glutes disabled and ineffective, and set you up for lifetime of chronic pain!

See our article - Weak VMO & Knee Pain How To Strengthen In 5 Simple Steps for more information on this.

You must never avoid the exercise that will hurt but find a way to learn how to do it without pain, limitation or fear. For if it can no longer hurt you, you are now unstoppable! A good quote from Tony Robbins I always think of when confronted with this situation - "If I can't, I must". The leg exercises like the squats, step ups, even deadlifts are all great exercises but they DO NOT require the hip to be extended, they actually are flexed, and the mobility required for these is is nothing like the demands of the lunge. Leg press, leg extension and leg curls by the way will ruin your body quicker than you click your fingers so I don't even rate these as leg exercises.

See article Squats vs Leg Press Which Is Better for more detail on exactly why these exercises are so ineffective and to be honest dangerous.

Improve Hip Mobility & Stability First

Before jumping straight into doing heaps of lunges it is wise to assess your hip mobility & basic stability first. In our assessments with clients on their first day it is very common to see people really struggle to pass our hip mobility tests in particular the swissball kneeling stretch seen in the video below. Your starting point should be to pass this stretch before attempting any strength work.

And once you pass this you should be able to complete the basic stability drill seen this next video. This is a reflex stability drill to establish whether you can stabilize your body by using your inner unit abdominal muscles or if you are using your hip flexors as stabilizers. This is a common problem to people who have completed a lot of poor abdominal training exercises.

Technique Is Everything

I cannot overstate the importance of technique, and this is big mistake many people make when starting out with group training programs that start on day one doing endless amounts of walking lunges. If your technique is not correct you will do more harm than good! Quality is always more important than doing more. You must know where is a good place to start for your level of ability and work your way up the levels of difficulty. The closer you are to perfect form the more you will get out of the movement. Watch the videos below to see me explain how to complete perfect form and avoid many of the common mistakes. I also provide you with some ideas on how to make it easier if this exercise does usually hurt you.

If you are not confident on your ability or suffering with a knee or hip problem I suggest getting a copy of our Knee Pain program below as the lunge is covered in great detail with all of the steps needed to progress safely to the strengthening stage. Click here to see more or click the image below to get your copy straight away. This is a 60 minute video that comes with a PDF instruction manual.

 

Lunges Improve Core Strength Better Than Any Exercise!

Apart from the obvious benefits of building strength in the legs and preventing many of the lower limb injuries many experience. The lunge is arguably the best exercise for learning how to use your core more efficiently and head towards sports performance! Many people think that Core Strength is lying on your back doing sit ups or holding planks. This is not core training but isolated abdominal training and will not change much with your body at all, yet alone improve your core stability and strength. The Lunge is the most critical movement needed to develop athletic ability and power. Why? It all has to do with what is known as The Slings Of The Body.

The body really is a complex system made up of many chains. These chains, when they are working well, help us move efficiently, produce more force, and create more speed.

There is 4 slings that are known as the:

  1. Anterior Sling
  2. Posterior Sling
  3. Lateral Sling
  4. Deep Longitudinal Sling

All of these slings share a common movement. Have you guessed what that is? Yes that is right, the lunge. The split stance or lunge position is needed in every one of these slings. The reason for this is, this is how we are designed to move. It is how we create efficient movement and motion. Think of how you walk and run. When we move our left leg forward our right arm swings through, and vice versa for the other leg and arm. Another way to think of these slings in action is how we throw a ball. Again the lunge is a huge component of being able to generate power and often many elbow and shoulder injuries like rotator cuff tears, are a result of poor leg strength and coordination with the lunge.

Look at the picture of the baseball pitcher below to see how this relates closely to a lunge. Read our article on Shoulder Pain for a detailed explanation of how this works. also the next key factor I like using lunges ........ BALANCE.

Lunges Improve Your Balance!

If you watch the video below you will see a perfect example of where a lunge is needed for everyday life movements. This is a video of an 80 year old client in our Older Adults program Stronger For Longer and shows how difficult a simple task as picking something up is compromised when the lunge ability is lost. It is hard to say which comes first - the loss of balance that makes the lunge hard, or the loss of the lunge that makes the balance worse, making the movement hard. In most cases you could trace the loss of the lunge ability occurring first. Again a chain reaction of problems arise from losing this movement.

  1. Loss of muscle mass
  2. Loss of coordination
  3. Stiffening up of the lower back and legs
  4. But worst of all a real fear of falling!

Good news is you can get it back. Our Stronger For Longer program proves this to be true. But you must start now and NEVER STOP! This is also true for sports, which brings me to my next reason.

Lunges Improve Sports Performance With Agility & Multi Direction Skills

One of the best things about the lunge is unlike other exercises it can be performed in every direction!

For example you can do this exercise

  • Standing still
  • Moving forward
  • Moving backward
  • Moving lateral (sideways)
  • Multi-directional
  • Jumping
  • Even include this with arm movements like pushing, pulling & twisting!

At times using extra skills of balance, speed, power or change of direction! These are all skills needed in elite sports.Our entire Sports Performance Program is based around the ability to lunge. 

The Multi Directional lunge would be the king of lunges for all ball sports such as tennis, football, basketball, soccer, netball & hockey. Even weightlifters use the lunge when doing the Clean and Jerk! The jerk requires a split stance of the lunge! There just is no escaping the fact that the lunge is the cornerstone of a elite athlete's training program. If you have a problem doing a lunge you will have a problem playing sport! Guaranteed! To see some examples of lunges in action watch the videos below or check out our Sports Performance webpage.

Advanced Progressions

And if you are someone looking for that tougher progression to try then you need to give these exercises a try. The demands on the entire body completing these is immense.

What About Weight Loss?

All that other stuff is great, but what if you don't have any injuries or play sports and you just want to lose a bit of weight and look and feel good?

Well the lunge will help to lose weight very quickly because it wreaks so much havoc on your muscles it creates a metabolic furnace when you go to sleep. Ask anyone who has done a stack of lunges in their workout if they are huffing and puffing, getting all sweaty, and then left sore for days afterwards. As there is so many variations to this movement it means it is difficult to become efficient at it. And the secret to using exercise with weight loss is all about becoming INEFFICIENT.

See article - Fitness Results Is All About Being Inefficient

All of the torn muscle fibers that leave you feeling sore for days after a massive lunge workout, force your body to go into repair mode and fix the damage! This repair mode requires energy, meaning that your metabolic rate increases to supply the repair crew with the tools and resources to do their job. The faster the metabolic rate the easier it is to lose weight as long as you are eating good nutrition. The biggest muscles in your body are all in your legs, glutes, hamstrings and quads. And when you work these massive muscle groups with lunges you can create a massive energy expenditure that forces change.

Need More Ideas On How To Use The Lunge For Strength & Sports?

There is stacks more other exercises we use with the lunge for various sports and I have only shown you a sample of a few. You will find even more of these in our FREE REPORTS you can download for other sports like Tennis, Football and Golf. And our Little Black Book includes all these sports with program examples for each. Click the image below to see more.

Conclusion

See I wasn't lying when I said that Lunges rock and why they would be my weapon of choice if there was only one exercise I could do. Whether you are old, young, injured or just wanting to get fit these are a key exercise to continually develop. Without doubt the most athletic of all the fundamental movement patterns to learn, meaning that if you can take your ability to a high level with this you will find it easy to remain athletically capable right up into your old age.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to know more about this or any of our other programs fill in a contact form below for a consultation and I will be in touch within 24 hours to schedule an appointment. Happy lunging!

 

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