Lunging fundamentals, Part 2

(Second in a three-part series)

Front lunges were discussed and described last week and this week we will feature side lunges. As mentioned previously, it is important to train 360 degrees around the hip joint (i.e. anterior, lateral and posterior). Consequently, a well-designed exercise program should include the front, side and back lunge where possible. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Side Lunges 

Perform 8-12 repetitions of the front, side and back lunges on two-three non-consecutive days/week. You may add external resistance such as dumbbells held at the sides, medicine ball forward presses, barbells on shoulders, etc. once you have mastered the lunges.

  • The side lunge concentrates on strengthening and stabilizing the hip joint. The quadriceps/hamstrings/gluteus maximus muscles are working as strong mobilizers and the hip abductors/adductors are working as stabilizers and mobilizers during the dynamic side lunging action.
  • The legs begin shoulder distance apart.
  • The shoulders/hips/knees and toes are all facing the same direction. Make certain to check the foot/ankle positions to ensure each are straight and that the hip is not rotated externally or internally.
  • While this is a side-to-side lunge, you are not externally rotating the hip and allowing the knee to face sideways. The knees/toes face forward and this is crucial to prevent injury to the knee joint.
  • The pelvic floor is pulled up and inward. Pelvis position is critical in a side lunge. The pelvis must remain in neutral. Therefore, avoid shifting the hips/pelvis forward or to the side which may cause the entire hip joint to shift placing significant load into the flexed knee joint and lumbar spine.
  • As you step out to the right side with the right leg immediately hinge at the hip joint, flexing the right knee and pressing the tailbone to the wall behind you. Think of “sinking” the hips backward, body weight into your right heel, keeping the right knee over the “heel to the shoe laces” of the right foot.
  • The left leg should trail to the side and remain straight simultaneously.
  • Push off the right foot, straightening the right leg, bringing the legs together standing up straight, then repeat the action to the left side.
  • Avoid dropping the torso downward. When performing the side lunge as you hip hinge it may appear that you are lowering the torso toward the floor; however, all that is occurring is a flexion of the hip joint.
  • When you observe your technique in a mirror, you should note that one leg is flexed and the other is straight. You are not stepping out to the side with a straight leg. The leg that steps is the one that flexes at the hip and knee joint while the other leg remains stationary and straight.
  • This up/down action and pushing off with the flexed side to standing position, is one of the unique aspects of a side lunge. Your ability to control this side dynamic action is one of the major components of the side lunge and what sets it apart from the front and back lunge.
  • Perform slow, controlled repetitions throughout.

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