While the lunge may be a fantastic exercise to strengthen the lower body, it is probably one of the most poorly understood and performed exercises in homes and health clubs around the world. Therefore, the following will highlight some of the basic biomechanical information regarding this complex exercise enabling you to perform this exercise correctly and safely, reaping all of the many benefits it has to offer. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Muscles Groups Targeted
When analyzing human movement, we often refer to the primary movers, the stabilizers and the neutralizers. During the stationary lunge, the quadriceps, which are major knee extensors, are the prime movers, in both directions. Concentrically, during the up phase of the lunge to extend the knee joint with control and eccentrically, during the down phase during resisted knee flexion.
Secondarily, the hip/leg extensors (i.e. gluteals/hamstrings) are providing a stabilizing component for the hip/knee joints and the neutralizers are the ankle plantar flexors through plantar flexion on the up phase and dorsiflexion on the down phase.
Additionally, the inner core unit muscles work as stabilizers of the torso (ultimately protecting the integrity of your posture, particularly your lumbar spine), the hip abductors/adductors work to stabilize the hip joint medially/laterally, and the shoulder girdle muscles stabilize the shoulder girdle, helping to keep the body vertical. Yes, there is a lot going on during a lunge!
Downward/Upward Never Forward
A stationary lunge is a downward and then upward motion. Think of placing a priceless Ming vase on your head and not displacing it during the lunge. If you move forward with the head/torso, you most assuredly will drop and break it! Therefore, before performing a lunge, connect your mind to your muscles and think “down/up”, sort of like pushups for the legs.
Position Yourself for Success
All exercises require a specific position in order to address the proper range of motion at the joints involved and the correct line of pull to provide the optimal load to the specific muscle group for excellent results.
Therefore, follow these guidelines for set up and performance of a stationary lunge:
-Begin with the legs in a long stride (i.e. staggered) front to back, as though you are standing on two different railroad tracks, with the legs hip width apart.
-Head, neck, shoulders, knees and toes all facing the same direction—arms suspended by your sides. Shoulders rotated back/down, rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward the spine, pelvic floor pulled up, knees relaxed throughout the exercise.
-Place the bulk of your body weight into the heel of the front foot aligning the knee directly over the front heel and do not permit it to move in a forward direction (remember-down/up).
-Back heel should remain lifted throughout to protect the Achilles tendon.
-Slowly lower the body down toward the floor flexing hip/knee joints no lower than approximately 90 degrees at those joints.
-Then, slowly drive through the front heel extending the legs to full extension without locking the knee joints.
-Perform one-three sets of this exercise, 8-12 repetitions, two to three non-consecutive days per week.