How to feel confident with your lunge technique

It'll come as no surprise to anyone who has taken any of my classes that I love a lunge. Named 'the lunge queen' during my time at the Barreworks studio in Richmond, I'm genuinely excited about getting you excited about lunges 🤩 Firstly I can TOTALLY see why you might be averse to lunges. It's really easy to get the technique wrong and the result of that is a lunge that feels super wobbly with lots of pressure through your knees and it's generally difficult to feel which muscles are meant to be engaging during the movement. The bad news is, if we carry on lunging like this we're likely to do some general not niceness to our knees. The good news is, I'm your lunging fairy godmother and I'm here to help. This blog post is going to tell you everything you need to know about the muscles we should be working when we lunge, the benefits of lunging, how to improve your technique and how we can progress your lunges in your Barre sessions.

First up, let's understand the muscles we want to be engaging when we're lunging.

For the purpose of this blog we're going to be focusing on static lunges (i.e. your feet stay in the same place as opposed to walking lunges or reverse lunges).

- Glutes (your bum!) - if you've spent years lunging without the right technique you might be thinking you've never felt your glutes coming on board but actually these guys are a key player when it comes to getting the most out of your lunges and stabilising your hips.

- Quads - the muscles at the front of your thigh are important to help control the bending and extension of the knee joint as you lunge.

- Hamstrings - these guys are working alongside your glutes to stabilise your pelvis as well as your knees.

- Calves - supporting the upwards movement as you lift up and out of your lunge, particularly keeping the ankle joint stable.

There's a lot of stability work happening when it comes to lunges and no more so than for your core (including your back). You'll want to focus on your posture to help you feel a little less wobbly and put yourself in a good position to get great core engagement to help support your spine.

That's a whole load of muscles working from just one exercise! So what's the benefit of working all these muscle groups?

1. Balance & stability - there's a reason lunges can feel so wobbly. The stance of a lunge essentially makes it a single leg exercise which means our stabilising muscles have to work harder. Over time (and with great technique 😜) you'll notice your balance, coordination and stability improve.

2. Improved core stability and balance - just leading on from the point above, wobbly lunges that require loads of stabilisation are great for improving your core stability and balance.

3. Alignment & symmetry - with your front leg taking a lot of the work and your back leg acting as a stabiliser for your lunge, we're essentially working both legs in different ways. This is great because it highlights muscle imbalances between each side which we can then work on.

4. Improved functionality - the stance of a lunge with both legs split reflects exactly what happens when we walk. If we can get great (and correct) muscle engagement and core stability while we're lunging then that really supports making everyday movements a wee bit easier.

Now you're totally convinced that lunges are fab, you'll want to learn how to do them. Here's an overview of the best technique to make lunges work for you.

  1. Start in a standing parallel position with feet roughly hip width part. Now step one foot forwards (further than you would if you were walking) and allow your back heel to lift off the floor so you're on the ball of your back foot. If you can maintain that hip width apart stance then you should feel a little more stable in this position.

  2. You want to keep your shoulders over your hips, your pelvis in a neutral position and your core engaged. Gently draw the shoulder blades back and down to help keep your chest open without allowing the rib cage to flare.

  3. As you lower down into the lunge you want to think about sending your weight straight down to the floor rather than pushing forwards over your front foot. When you get to the bottom of the lowering phase your front knee should be right over the line of your ankle and your back knee should be right underneath the line of your hip. This will take a wee bit of practice and it can really help to do it in front of a mirror and position yourself side on so you can keep an eye on the alignment of your knees.

  4. To come up again you want to drive through your front heel (without allowing the toes to lift off the floor) to engage the glute of the front leg. The glutes, quads and calves will work together to bring you back up. Remember the back leg is there to stabilise you so you want to avoid putting loads of pressure through your back foot.

A couple of things to watch out for with your lunges;

- Avoid keeping your feet too close together - a shorter stance will end up putting more pressure on your knee joint

- Careful not to let the front foot or knee turn inwards as it'll put pressure through the knee joint

- Careful not to let the back knee turn out as it'll put pressure through that knee joint

How to modify your lunges

  1. If you really struggle to find the work in the glute of your front leg when you're lifting up and out of your lunge then a good little trick is to take a hinge forwards from the line of your hips with your upper body. Just be careful that this slight change of position doesn't suddenly make you push your weight forwards in your lunge.

  2. Grab a chair and pop it one side of you so you can keep one hand on the chair to support you as you lunge.

  3. Reduce the range of movement and slowly build up to increase it over time. You'll still be activating the same muscles so don't feel you have to jump straight into a full range of movement lunge.

  4. Elevate the front foot on a yoga block to take some of the stress out of the front leg.

See this modification in action here.

Progressing your lunges

Once you feel confident with your static lunges we can start to try some more complex sequences. We'll add some variation in our Barre sessions by incorporating some sort of resistance like dumbbells and adding some upper body work at the same time. We might increase the level of challenge by adding a heel lift on the front foot, we might challenge your stability even further by popping a Pilates ball under the front heel. We'll play with range of movement and add small movements and isometric holds to help improve your muscular endurance. The options are endless and you can try them out in this quick 15 minute lower body workout.

Whether you've been avoiding them like the plague, struggling with your technique or just not sure how to progress your lunges, I hope this post has helped you feel a bit more confident with them. With these minor tweaks you can go from feeling super wobbly to really in control of the movement and that's when you'll start to feel good about progressing to more advanced sequences.

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