When building the legs, we see these 3 mistakes ALL THE TIME…
Our next section of How to Build a Balanced Program is the lunging pattern. So far we have covered the major movements such as the the squat, deadlift, vertical press, horizontal pull, inner core, outer core, and today we are covering the lunge.
We’re plugging away with the patterns needed to develop a balanced strength-training program. In this article, we want to cover the lunge pattern. The lunge pattern has been widely abused by many trainers, fitness enthusiasts, and everyone in between. When we get down to the common faults section, be sure to pay close attention. These faults, if performed, will drastically change the dynamics of this exercise and can end up doing way more harm than good.
The lunge pattern is a great way for the body to learn how to decelerate under control. If we’re moving forward, backward, or even to the side, the lunge pattern is generally what’s helps us slow the momentum we’ve built up, and then transfer that energy in another direction. If we lose the ability to properly lunge, we’re setting ourselves up for a potential injury in the future. Our bodies need to be able to react, stabilize, and move under control. The lunge is another innate pattern we learned through the developmental process, and this important pattern should be maintained throughout life.
This is a very complex pattern, and different factors can really come in to play with the lunge. If you experience knee pain, loss of balance, hip or back pain, or find this pattern to be extremely difficult to perform, we recommend getting a movement screen to help identify potential road blocks the body may be creating to make the pattern next to impossible to perform well. Previous injury, being overweight, lack of hip, ankle, or spine mobility, and loss of stability can all create major challenges with this pattern, so just be careful with the lunge and take your time to develop this ever so important movement pattern.
1. Knee Cave on Lead Leg (left picture)– If stability is an issue, or if you think you have a “weak” core, be sure to check out the position of your front knee. When we see a lack of core and hip stability, we generally see the knee on the lead leg caving in towards the center. Done properly, the knee should stay positioned almost directly over the shoestrings. While coaching, we always tell our clients to get their knee out towards their pinky toe. If it caves in towards your big toe, the hips and core aren’t doing their job, and the knee is at a greater risk.
2. Weight Shift into Lead Leg (right picture) – This is all too common. Most people lack the strength needed to keep the majority of their weight into the back hip. In our society, the quad muscles generally take the load of the work. Essentially, the front of our legs are doing a lot more than the backside. When we start doing the lunge pattern, this becomes apparent rather quickly. If your staying in the proper 90/90 split stance position, the weight should stay over your trail hip. Done properly, you’ll usually feel the back side of your trail leg activated while getting a big stretch down the front of the thigh on that same trail leg. Keeping the weight shift to a minimum, this exercise will become much tougher than previously thought. If you catch yourself doing this, try getting into a doorway, using a squat rack, or finding another way to block your ability to shift into that leg. If a wall is directly in front of your face, it makes next to impossible to cheat by shifting the weight forward.
3. Rib Flare – Ribs down, ribs down, ribs down!!! We’re constantly telling people to keep their ribs down all the time. If you’ve been following this series, I think we’ve talked about rib flare in just about every pattern. Rib flare is one way our bodies compensate to gain stability. By arching our low back, letting the ribs flare, and taking a stance with shoulders pulled way back, we actually create stability by using the bodies stiffness and structure versus using the muscles to help us control our posture. It’s simply a compensatory pattern to make the pattern easier in some shape or manner. Watch the ribs, keep them down, and start using your core to stabilize. If you learn how to control this, you’re going to take your training to a whole new level. Keep those ribs down folks 🙂
In order to properly do a lunge, we need a unique blend of mobility and stability. The bodies joints need to move the way their intended. If there’s a block in a major joint structure, attack that first. No point in progressing any further if your joints aren’t allowing your body to move the way we’re asking it to. Mobility first, and then stability second. Here are a couple corrective strategies for both:
Lunge Pattern Progressions
Establishing a good lunge takes an understanding of the 90/90 position. Basically, the way we progress this pattern starts with the basic understanding of the static starting position, the 90/90 position. Watch the video below to see a brief description of what we mean when we talk about establishing a 90/90 position.
After you have a basic understanding of the starting position, it’s time to learn how to challenge and progress this movement. The lunge pattern starts with a static 90/90 position, and then becomes more dynamic. The split squat progressions will keep the feet in the same place, and then we eventually learn how to step forward or back and make it your traditional lunge pattern you’ve seen before. Own the split squat progressions before moving on. Take the time here (split squats) and your lunges will be stronger, more stable, and better than ever.
Offset Split Squat
Description: Begin in a half kneel position with both legs at 90 degrees. The front knee should be over your front ankle. From this position stand straight up until legs are close to being locked. Once at the top, return to the starting position paying close attention to the front knee making sure it does not go past the ankle. If bodyweight is easy, load your lead leg with either a kettlebell in your hand or a dumbbell.