by Boris Bojanovic
So, we’ve covered the other major lower body exercises with in past articles Kettlebell Squat Variations (www.kettlebellinstitute.com.au/kettlebell-squat-variations/) & Regressing the Swing (www.kettlebellinstitute.com.au/regressing-the-swing/). Now it’s time to have a closer look at the lunge. Lunges are a single leg variation of the squat movement pattern where one leg stays in front & mimics the movement of the leg in a squat while the other leg ends up behind the body. This places more weight through one leg (the front leg) & takes away the side-to-side stability (frontal plane) by placing you in a long but narrow stance.
The variation most trainers think of when they think of a lunge is a walking lunge. This is a great exercise when performed correctly but is a very complex exercise to beginner clients as it requires:
- Stability on a single leg for most of the movement
- Travelling forwards while squatting up & down
- Landing, decelerating, reversing & accelerating in quick succession
As you can see the walking lunge is a great athletic movement which will develop stability, strength, power & deceleration (or shock absorption). It may be too complicated for most beginners. A better starting point for the beginner client is the split squat.
The split squat isn’t technically a lunge as it doesn’t involve a “lunging” action but it’s a great starting point for single leg exercises as it introduces frontal plane instability (side-to-side) into a squat. Have the client start with their feet at hip width & slide one backwards as if they were on tracks. This prevents the feet ending up in a straight line therefore eliminating unnecessary instability. The front foot should stay flat on the floor while the back foot should be up on the toes the whole time. Sitting back on the heel between reps causes a jarring motion & overextends the hips needlessly.
Ideally you’re looking for full range of motion, which means the knee grazing the floor & control throughout the movement, which means not smashing into the floor. You may need to progress your clients to full ROM over a few training sessions.
Once clients build up stationary single leg stability you can introduce the lunge component. This is best done with a reverse stepping lunge because the action of the front leg is exactly that of the legs in a bilateral squat. This variation adds complexity by requiring the client to display the same frontal plane stability while standing only on one leg for a good portion of the movement.
Next in complexity is the walking lunge, which adds impact & deceleration in the front leg followed by the upward phase exactly the same as the reverse lunge upward phase.
Stationary Forward Lunge
The last in the progression is the stationary forward lunge, which starts like the walking lunge, but instead of standing up on the front leg it requires a powerful kick backwards onto to stand up on the back leg.
The lunge continuum
To sum up, this is how beginner clients are best progressed through the lunge variations. At each step of the way they develop a certain quality which is needed to do the next level more effectively & safely. Progression in complexity also gives them a sense of achievement. It also allows you, as the trainer, to tailor the movement pattern to their current level & not overwhelm them or risk injuring them.
- Split Squat
- Reverse Lunge
- Walking Lunge
- Stationary Forward Lunge
Next newsletter we’ll go over the common issues with the lunge pattern & how to troubleshoot them with your clients.