Have you ever been at the gym performing an exercise and wondered, ‘How will this help my body in my day-to-day activities?’ If you answered “yes,” you probably weren’t performing a functional exercise at the time. Functional exercises help your body perform real life activities –and the lunge is one key exercise.
People drop down into a one-knee kneel all the time: to tie a shoe, pick something up, even to propose to someone. This one-legged movement is called a lunge, a functional, multi-muscle and multi-joint exercise. Performing a lunge increases the muscle mass and strength in your lower legs. It also increases core stability and strength, which can help relieve back pain and improve your posture. In addition, since the exercise is performed one leg at a time, it promotes unilateral leg strength as well as addresses any muscle imbalances between each leg and improves balance, coordination and stabilization. Lastly, this Swiss army knife of exercises can increase flexibility in your hips, which can help prevent injuries.
Lunges strengthen your:
- Gluteus Maximus
- Abdominal muscle group
Ready to try a lunge?
We asked Jason White, a Toronto-based Certified Athletic Therapist at Physiohealth Studios and Jason White Therapy, to explain how to do a proper lunge.
To perform properly:
1) Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
2) Step forward with one foot, as if you are taking a walking step.
TIP: Keep your hips and shoulder square to the front and keep looking forward.
3) Bend the knee on the forward leg; the heel on your back leg should lift off the floor.
4) Lower the front leg as far down as comfortable; your back leg will also bend.
TIP: Try to keep your knee on the front leg aligned with your ankle and your back in neutral position, not leaning forward.
5) Hold for a second, and then slowly stand back up to your starting position.
6) You can continue lunging on the same leg, or alternate legs.
* Build up to three sets of 10 lunges on each leg, resting between each set.
Want to make it easier?
- Go for a smaller range of motion: You don’t need to bend the front knee far to get the benefits of this exercise.
- Hold onto a wall or chair to help you balance as you do the lunge.
- Place you front foot on a step to take some pressure off your knees.
Want a challenge?
- Add hand weights or a barbell to the exercise.
- Go into a deeper lunge where your back knee is touching the ground.
- Once you are down in a lunge, do small pulses (going slightly up and down) for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
- Try split lunge jumps: This advanced technique will help increase your balance, stability, coordination in addition to speed, power and quickness for athletic performance. Start by stepping into your lunge position. Push yourself back up with an explosive, dynamic movement – basically a jump. In mid-air, change your legs so the back leg is now forward and land in that position.
R.Kin, RMT,CAT(C), SMT(C)
As a former competitive swimmer, Jason White experienced his share of injuries and treatment. His desire to help others overcome injuries and resume healthy lifestyles led him to becoming an Athletic Therapist and RMT, and is the focus of his current private practice.