Here we have Michelle Trapp talking us through the lunge. To be clear, a split squat: big step forwards and then go up and down for a number of reps; lunge: big step forwards then bring that leg back to the start. So a lunge is dynamic – and far harder to stabilise.
The reason I chose this video is because Michelle keeps it simple and is not banging on about keeping the front knee behind the toes; that cue contributes handsomely to your local knee surgeon’s retirement fund.
- Stand with feet about hip width apart.
- Take a giant step forwards, landing firmly on the whole foot. So keep the heel firmly planted and spread out the toes.
- Allow your front knee to travel forwards naturally, but don’t let your front heel lift.
- The back knee bends and you roll onto the toes.
- Keep the body absolutely upright.
- With absolutely no wobbling from your legs, hips or body, press strongly back with the front leg.
- Repeat either on that leg or alternate legs.
I see many exercises done supremely badly – and this exercise is way up in the top 3. If you do the exercise in front of a mirror, it is normal for one leg to do the exercise well, whereas the other seems to have a life of its own, wobbling about or causing your body to side bend or you to lose your balance. I strongly recommend getting very good at split squats before attempting the lunge. But many aerobic classes incorporate lunges as part of the workout; I still recommend doing serious work on the split squat, learning what it is you have to gain good control of the rubbish leg. And that something will involve deep body work/Z-health as well as just practising.
Mentally, it is very important to allow the front knee to travel forwards because this then engages the inner knee muscle, the VMO, to act properly as a brake and propellant to get you back. If you concern yourself with keeping the knee behind the toes, you will feel you are pulling the knee back, which disengages the VMO, leading to over development of the outer knee muscle, the vastus lateralis, and of the TFL. You will also be recruiting the little external hip rotators such as the piriformis to try to stabilise the hips – and that will lead to a great deal of pain. Initially, I hear people are happy because they feel stiff after a lunge workout – but where is this stiffness? If it is in the inner knee muscle and quads and maybe the buttocks then that is good. But if the stiffness is in the outer buttock, then this is awful. Pains on the outside of the knee or thigh are awful. Another pain, apparently unrelated, is a stiff calf or achilles following a run or aerobics. Again this means the hips are not stable and the poor calves are doing their all they can to stabilise a wobbly bottom.
So the lunge is an advanced exercise, a very good next stage in improving stability and strength of the legs and hips. But if done prematurely or without care, it is an exercise that can cause great damage.