Daily Archives: September 24, 2010

Fitness Friday – The Perfect Lunge

Hellohello! First and foremost THANK YOU to those of you who voted for my first Project Food Blog submission.

I advanced to the next round!

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I honestly cannot believe this, so thankyouthankyouthankyou from the depths of my heart for taking the time out of your day to pick my lil’ bloggie! The second challenge will happen this weekend. It’s all about “The Classics” and will have me experimenting with a unique ethnic dish in my kitchen. I’ve got the dish picked out and it’s going to be fun! Or… at least interesting ;)

Now, enough of the food stuff for now – we’ve got fitness to talk about!

Today’s Fitness Friday post is a continuation on my “perfect series.” So far I’ve covered:

The Perfect Push Up 

The Perfect Plank

The Perfect Squat

 

After covering the squat, I feel like we are ready to tackle one of the most abused exercises:

The Lunge.

I say abused, because 90% of the people I see doing lunges are doing them incorrectly. Mostly due to the fact that it is an advanced exercise. It’s still hard for most people to do! The lunge is one of the best lower body exercises there is, but it requires a lot of stability + strength to perform correctly.

Because it can be such an effective exercise, many trainers and instructors use lunges in their programs despite having “beginner” clients and students. I work with one trainer who tests his clients abilities before even graduating them to a lunge.

Why all the fuss about doing it properly? Because an incorrect lunge can do a number on your knees. Especially if you’re prone to knee problems already. 

Fret not though, I am here to get you doing it correctly! Start with just your bodyweight. There’s no point in adding load if you feel like you’re going to topple over to begin with. Then, remember these points:

  • Take a biiiig step out. This is to ensure that your knee is above your ankle when you come down. If your knee comes past your toes, it puts unneeded stress on your knee joint.
  • Keep your feet at hip distance apart. Too many people put their feet one foot in front of the other when lunging, and that’s why they fall sideways!
  • Your torso moves up and down. Never lean forward when lunging – that will also lead to the front knee coming forward which we don’t want. Remember to keep that chest up and proud!
  • Your back knee should ideally be inches from the floor when you’re at the base of your lunge. However, I’m not too strict on this point. Come down to wherever is comfortable, just make sure you’re still working hard!
  • Remember to push up through your heels and not your toes. This ensures you’re hitting those bigger leg muscles.
  • Try picking a stationary spot to stare at while lunging, it will help with your balance.

The lunge is great for:

  • Quads (front thigh), glutes (butt) and hips. Secondary muscles are the hamstrings (back of thigh) and calves.
  • Balance
  • Keeping your heart rate up (burning calories!) during a strength routine

 

Variations:

There are of course a million variations of the lunge. Here are the main ones:

Forward lunge: Take a big step forward, come down, then push back up ending with your feet together.

Reverse lunge: Take a big step behind you, bring that leg down, then push forward ending with your feet together.

Stationary lunge: (pictured above). Stand with your feet hip distance apart but a wide space from front to back. Keep your back toe up and front foot planted in the ground. Bring that back knee down, push up, stay where you are, and come back down again. This also goes by a “split squat.”

Walking lunge: A forward lunge, except instead of pushing back, you bring the back leg forward into a wide step and come down again.

Now onto to some of my favourite fancier versions!

 

Twisting Walking Lunge

A regular walking lunge performed holding a weight (can be a plate, dumbbell, medicine ball, etc). As you come down, with straight arms, twist using your ab muscles to the side of the front leg. Come up straight again, then twist to the other side as you lunge forward with the other leg. Great way to get ab and shoulder work in with your lunges!

 

Curtsy Lunge

This is essentially a reverse lunge. But instead of bringing your leg straight back, bring it back diagonally so it looks like a curtsy. I personally find this a lot easier for balance over a regular reverse lunge.

 

Lunge Kick

A fun way to get that heart rate up and take out some of your frustration ;) Perform a reverse lunge, then swing that back leg forward on the way up and kick it in front of you. I don’t recommend trying this with weights like in the photo on the first try. This one requires a lot of balance!

 

Lunge on a Bosu Ball

Think a regular stationary lunge is hard to balance on? Try putting that front foot on the top of a bosu ball. The extra instability causes those working muscles to really fire up.

 

The Lunge Jump

Aka “my most hated exercise ever.” Start with a regular forward lunge. From that down position, push up into a jump, switch legs, and land by lunging down on the other side. Repeat until your legs feel like they are going to burn off :P

 

And that my friends is my spiel on The Perfect Lunge. A lot of people moan and groan about how awful they are. But I promise that once you get the form down on the basic bodyweight variations, it will start to feel better and more fun. As a disclaimer though, I absolutely do not recommend a lunge of any kind for anyone with nagging knee issues! They can be tricky for those with ankle problems as well. With that said – happy lunging!

Question of the Day: What is your most hated exercise? Do you still make it part of your routine?

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