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If you want to build lower body strength, lunges are one of the best exercises you can do. Why? Because the single-leg bodyweight exercise works your quads, hamstrings, core and glutes all at the same time.
Unlike squats, lunges also help with muscle imbalances as you work one leg at a time. They also help improve the motion of walking and improve your performance of daily, natural movements.
Lunges might seem simple enough, but there are plenty of common mistakes that mean you might not be getting the full benefit of the exercise or be at risk of injury. We spoke to a personal trainer to ensure you’re doing a lunge the correct way and not damaging your knees in the process.
How do I lunge properly?
Dominik Rzadowski, master trainer at Anytime Fitness teaches lunges with his clients in training sessions. He said: “The way I always teach my clients to lunge is by asking them to step over an exercise mat with one leg (i.e. with the mat horizontal between your two legs).
“From there, stay in that position and then bend your knees - shifting the weight forward - ensuring a 90-degree angle of the front leg and back knee under the hip.”
That’s the lunge position. When you stand up, press the right heel into the ground to drive your body back up to standing. Then you swap legs to repeat the exercise on the other side.
What’s the correct position?
:: Knee positioned directly behind hip
:: 70 to 90 degrees of extension of the knees
:: Ensure your front shin is vertical
:: Make sure your knees are neutral (and aligned with the foot)
Much like squats, Rzadowski said if you get the posture wrong with one body part, the others can follow suit. Often, he said he will tend to see someone’s rear foot collapse and turn out (to the right), which is a result of missing hip internal rotation.
Other common faults include:
:: Missing hip extension i.e. an inability to extend your hip as fully as you need to, which will lead to compensatory movements at other joints
:: Knee too far forward (should be aligned with the foot).
If you’ve nailed the perfect lunge and want to make it a bit harder, you could:
:: Add a weight such as a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell
:: Try walking lunges
:: Progress from a lunge into a superset, by performing a lunge followed by an overhead weight press in one movement