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It's All About the Lunge

It's All About the Lunge

There are certain exercises that offer many benefits when it comes to getting more bang for your buck (aka more muscles worked in a single movement) and one of those exercises is the lunge. If you have worked with a personal trainer before, more than likely they have incorporated some form of a lunge into your workout.

Although adding a lunge to your regular workout routine offers lots of benefits, it is very important to do it correctly in order to avoid injury or pulled muscles. Your personal trainer will guide you step-by-step on how to perform a lunge correctly while watching your form and balance. As you progress, there are tons of ways to not only improve your lunge, but add challenges to it as well.

Benefits of the Lunge

  • Strengthens Lower-Body Muscles: Lunges are considered a compound exercise meaning they work multiple muscle groups and joints at once whereas an isolation exercise targets one muscle group at time such as the biceps (ex. bicep curl) or the triceps (ex. triceps extension). It has been proven that compound exercises (the lunge!) burn more calories, work more muscles and improve aerobic performance more than isolation movements do. When you lunge, you are working: your hamstrings, glutes, quads and calves all at once. Done!

  • Increases Flexibility: Many people tend to have tight hip flexor muscles due to sitting for multiple hours at a time at a desk job. When doing a lunge, whether forward, backward or to the side, you are stretching out your hip flexor and psoas muscles - the muscles that tend to get tight due to sitting and underuse - helping to increase your flexibility. So practicing lunges will overtime increase hip flexibility and mobility.

  • Improves Balance: Your leg muscles and glutes are best to strengthen when it comes to balance. Having strong, lower-body muscles helps you to stay balanced in every day life situations: when you go for a walk, and during those times you trip. The more balance you have, the better chance you have at preventing a fall. All leg muscles are important for balance but the big muscles worked when you perform a lunge (hamstrings and quads) are at the top of the list for better balance.

  • Helps Correct Muscle Imbalances: A muscle imbalance happens when muscles are over-or under-used, causing an imbalance. For example, if you always work your bicep muscles and never train your triceps, one group of muscles is being over worked whereas the opposing muscle group is now weaker, causing an imbalance. Imbalances can lead to injury, pain and limited mobility. To keep everything even, it’s important that you work everything evenly and lunges are great for that. When you lunge, you focus on one side of your body at a time, performing an even amount of reps on each side of your body. By doing this, you are ensuring your hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings stay balanced. As for another bonus, lunges may help prevent or rehabilitate ACL injuries and other musculoskeletal problems.

  • Enhances Functional Fitness and Aerobic Performance: Every day we have to get from point A to point B and moving in general is just a part of our everyday life. With aerobic performance, whether that be biking, running or hiking, including functional exercises such as the lunge in our workout routine helps our performance in both of these aspects. Why? If you think about it, the lunge mimics movements we have to do on a regular basis.

How to Correctly Perform a Lunge

Before you leap into lunges, it is very important that you know the correct form and positioning to prevent injury. Lunges are a fantastic, safe exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime (bonus!) however, they can have the opposite effect if done incorrectly. Here is what you need to know before jumping right into your lunge:

  • Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart.

  • Step forward and bend both knees, lowering until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle (front knee aligned with your toes and back knees aligned with your hip).

  • Shift forward onto the lead leg.

  • Push off on both legs and step through, lifting your back leg and bringing it forward so your rear foot lands ahead of you in a lunge position.

For beginners, it is best to use a wall or something stable for balance and rather than pushing back with your leg to starting position, stay in the upright lunge position keeping your shoulders back and core engaged, move up toward the ceiling and lower down into your lunge until you have completed your reps. Then you can step back to start and do the other side. As you progress, you can add weights, reps and more challenges to your lunge.

Ask your personal trainer how you can progress your lunge and what level you need to begin at. If you have had a recent injury or struggle with knee problems, always consult your doctor to get the green light and tell your trainer - they will know if adding lunges to your workout routine is right for you.

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