Blog · Fitness

Back to the basics: Mastering the lunge

I’ve never had chicken legs. Though many people would consider me small, I’m definitely not scrawny. Especially my legs. In fact, Mark calls them thick. (Is that a compliment?) And it looks like my kids inherited that trait from me. Which is fine! I say they are “pre-dispositioned for strength and power.” That’s right. There ain’t no sissies in this family. (Haha!) 😀

As a teenager, I was a bit self-conscious about my legs. I knew they weren’t fat. In fact, they were mostly muscular. Still, I never felt like they were very defined and I was a bit self-conscious about wearing shorts. This stemmed an interest into any and all exercises that would help my legs look slim and toned.

I know better now. Yes, I still want to have strong, toned legs, but I know that looks can be deceiving and strength is hard to judge based on appearances alone. I’ve come to appreciate what my legs can do. They carry me on long runs and up mountain trails. They support me for hours as I walk around the house, cleaning and re-cleaning, getting on and off the floor, playing and managing our home life. It’s definitely become a matter of performance for me, not merely looks.

When I was training for my first half marathon, I’d do walking lunges as a warm-up. Then I read an article about the toned legs of a soccer player and to help your legs take the same shape, you should include various types of lunges in your routine – mimicking the movement of someone rapidly accelerating and decelerating and changing direction at any given moment. I’ve done many combinations of lunges throughout the years and I’ve never been disappointed. Thankfully, it’s not too hard to master.

Lunging is an important skill

Your gait, or the way your body moves when you walk and run, says a lot about the muscles in the adductor complex. And if you’re trying to tone these muscles, it is best to use them in the way they were designed to be used. When you walk, you alternate between supporting yourself on both legs and supporting yourself on one leg. Muscular imbalances or weakness in your hip flexors, glutes, quads, and hamstrings can leave you in pain or keep you off your feet completely.

Makes sense to keep these muscles strong, don’t you think? Using these muscles during training as you would during normal life activities is key to preventing muscular imbalances and injury. One way to do that is by perfecting the lunge.

back-to-the-basics-lunge

The basic technique

The lunge primarily works your quads and glutes. Taking a big step when performing the lunge will work the glutes a little harder and taking a small step will work the quads a little harder.

To do a lunge:

  1. Stand with your legs slightly apart.
  2. Inhale and take a step forward, keeping your torso straight.
  3. Lunge until your front thigh is horizontal to the floor.
  4. Exhale and return to the upright position.

This exercise requires good balance, so don’t attempt to complete it with heavy weights until you’ve mastered it with your own bodyweight and then light weights. As you step and lunge, make sure your front knee does not go beyond your toes. This will put too much stress on the knee joint. Keep your knee behind your toes and your weight in your muscles.

Squat variations

Reverse lunge – Stand as you would with a forward lunge, but instead of taking a step forward you take a step backward. Lunge until your front thigh is horizontal to the floor.

Side lunge – Stand with your legs slightly apart and take a step to the side. Bend the knee of the stepping leg and lower your weight behind you, keeping your butt to the back of the room, until your thigh is about parallel to the ground. Push through the bent leg to return to the standing position. Repeat this move on both sides.

Posterier (backward) to anterior (forward) lunge – This is actually a favorite of mine. It’s essentially a traditional, forward lunge that goes right into a reverse lunge, so the foot on your stabilizing legs never moves. To include this into your routine, complete eight to 12 reps on one leg and then switch and do eight to 12 reps on the other leg.

To make lunges more challenging, you can add weights as you improve. There are several ways to do that:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand
  • Hold a kettlebell with both hands
  • Place a barbell across your trapezius
  • Hold a plate overhead

The lunge with an overhead plate is the move I plan to tackle in my own routine.

Bodies in motion

There you have it folks – a simple exercise that targets multiple muscle groups, burning mega calories (especially when adding weights and engaging your arm muscles) and toning your legs along the way.

What is your favorite lunge? Leave a comment here or on the Facebook page to let me know!.

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