April 2019 – Try a New Move

April 2019 – Try a New Move

Lunging Around

The best strength training exercises make daily activities like walking and climbing stairs feel easier. It’s even better if they don’t require added weight or lots of floor space. Bodyweight lunges fit the bill perfectly!

The classic forward lunge closely mimics the movements used when walking, making them a smart option for walkers looking to include more strength training in their routine. Strength training each muscle group (arms, shoulders, chest, trunk, back, and legs) at least twice per week helps preserve lean muscle mass, strengthen bones, and prevent cognitive decline. Standard lunges fire-up two of your major muscle groups – legs and core. Abdominal and lower back muscles assist in stabilization throughout the movement.

If you’re traveling, can’t make it to the gym, or need to wake-up your legs and core after sitting at your desk for too long, get up and lunge around! Try 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions at a time. This means performing 8-12 lunges on each leg, resting for 60-90 seconds, then repeating once or twice more.

Good form is crucial when performing any exercise, and lunges are no exception! Avoid joint stress, especially in your knees, by following these tips for an alternating forward lunge. If you’ve ever attempted lunges but felt like something was off, reassess your form step-by-step using the directions below.

How to perform a forward lunge:

  1. Stand with an upright posture, pulling your shoulders down and back. Avoid arching your lower back by tightening your core muscles to keep your spine stable and shoulders aligned with your hips. Look directly ahead of you, keeping your gaze locked on a single spot or object in front of you to assist with balance throughout the movement.
  2. Step forward with your right (or left) leg and lower yourself to the floor until both knees form 90-degree angles. Focus on dropping your hips toward the floor instead of driving them forward. Do your best to keep your knee behind your toes, with a slight forward lean in your shinbone. However, it is ok if your knee must protrude over your toes if the movement remains pain-free. If you feel unstable, try widening your stance. If your front foot comes off the ground, step out a little further (the length of your lunge should be about two times your hip width).
  3. Shift your weight to your right heel and push firmly off your right foot while keeping your knee in a vertical line with your ankle. This portion of the movement should engage your quadriceps and gluteus (leg and butt) muscles most. Return to the upright standing position in which you began.
  4. Repeat immediately with the opposite leg after regaining balance.

Variety in your training routine is crucial for building strength and flexibility. Once you’re a forward lunge expert, switch it up with a variation and consider adding weight with dumbbells, resistance bands, or more sets and repetitions.

Lunge variations:

    1. Lateral lunge—Step to the side for this variation to better target inner and outer thigh muscles.
      1. Start with your feet facing forward, parallel, and hip-width apart. Hold your arms out in front of you, comfortably, to assist with balance. After tightening your core, shift your weight to your heels, and lift your right leg. Slowly step out to the same side. Keep both feet faced forward.
      2. Plant your right foot firmly on the ground, bend at your hips, and push your hips back while shifting your weight into your right foot. Continue pushing into your right leg until your shinbone is vertical to the floor and your right knee aligns with the second toe in your right foot. Your left leg should be near-straight with most of your weight shifted to your right hip. Keep both of your feet flat on the floor and your arms extended to assist with balance. You’ll know you stepped too wide if you can’t keep your knee in line with your foot. If so, shorten your step.
      3. Push from your right leg and return to the upright starting position, then repeat on the other side.
    2. Walking lunge—Challenge your balance by adding forward movement to a classic lunge! Perform a forward lunge as described above but push off the floor with your back foot to meet your front foot. Pause at the starting position to regain balance or immediately step into another lunge with the opposite foot. Challenge yourself by hovering your back leg into another lunge without setting it down. Break up walking, jogging, or running workouts with intermittent intervals of walking lunges. Try doing walking lunges for distance (i.e., 50 yards), time (i.e., 45 seconds), or repetitions (i.e., 12 each side)!
    3. Reverse lunge—Target your glutes by stepping backward instead of forward. Make sure to follow the same postural and alignment cues used to perform a proper forward lunge. Try this variation if you have problematic knees.
    4. Reverse lunge with a kick—Perform a standard reverse lunge and instead of returning your foot to the floor, kick your leg out in front of you. This variation uses additional core musculature to help you hover your leg and kick—that’s a lot of balance!
    5. Lunge with bicep curl—Turn the lunge into a lower and upper body movement to target three major muscle groups (legs, trunk, and arms). Start with two dumbbells at your side, then perform a classic or reverse lunge. Focus on stabilizing your torso and keeping the dumbbells straight by your side. Avoid swaying and leaning forward. When your front and back legs reach comfortable, near 90-degree angles, perform a slow and controlled bicep curl, keeping your elbows close to your body and in-line with your torso, then return to the starting position. Select dumbbells that allow you to perform at least 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per leg.

Read the next article: Exercise Your Brain

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