6. The Lunges
The 6th place goes to lunges, I recently read that the lunges received bad press because it does not allow to lift as heavy as with any kind of squats or deadlifts.
I was surprised and sincerely amused. To be honest with you, the lunges come that low in my list simply because they are BLOODY HARD.
To lunge, you just not only need strength, you also need balance. As a matter of fact the majority of the people who can properly lift decent weights struggle more with the lunges than the squats or deadlifts.
The lunge is the third in contention, as explained in previous posts, the deadlift and the squat are BASIC leg lift, and so are the lunges.
As an example a Jerk Press variation could be a split Jerk and it is the most used technique by the Olympic lifters when they perform a clean and jerk.
Why do I lunge?
1. It is simply harder than squatting and deadlifting, I love the first two lifts and hardly enjoy the latter. In all honesty, to lunge decent weight is a struggle, but as the refrain says, "what does not kill you makes you stronger..."
2. I consider it primordial in a leg routine as it isolates the possible weakest link. I had a left knee operation years ago and as matter of fact my left leg is weaker, so doing lunges help me to strengthen the ligaments and tendons of my weak left leg.
3. It is a nice alternative to squat and deadlift. Don't ask me why, but when injured you can sometimes squat, but not deadlift or the opposite...
The lunges provide lots of variations as you can do them with dumbbell, kettlebell, sand bag, barbell, racking on your shoulders (back lunges), front lunges, overhead and even stepping forward, backward or to the side.
When do I lunge?
To start with, the lunges will be my second or third lift. If I do a leg routine, I will lunge as soon as I am warmed up, I believe it is too demanding to be done after heavy squats or deadlifts.
How do I lunge?
The lunge is a 4 stages movement, which consists of a step forward, bending both your legs till the final position, straightening legs to get back up and step back to the original position.
1. Starting position:
Standing feet hips with apart, chest up, lower back straight (neutral spine) with the bar on my clavicles (same grip as when I do a back squat) or on my collar bone (same grip as when I front squat).
I will step forward with my right foot.
- The step will be straight forward (in line with my hips) , which means that I will land with my feet hips width apart and NOT in line.
- The step length will be, far enough for your left knee to touch the ground. The best tip to know if your lunge is "correct" is (without a bar), step with your right leg forward, left knee on the floor and place your elbows on the front knee, then move your front foot till you FEEL, you are in balance and can hold the position without discomfort for minutes. *The position, I am referring to is the one adopted by all the coaches around the world when they have to talk to their teams...THEY LUNGE!
- Bend both of your legs and till your left knee touches the floor. This is the Final position
2. The final position:
- Your front foot is flat on the floor, your left knee as well well as your left toes are touching the floor, your upper body is as described in step 1.
- You will push "up" from front leg to get back to a standing position and finally step back to finish the movement.
* Your "front"knee must not go beyond your toes, as this will put undue stress on knee joint. Your front sheen should be perpendicular to the ground.
Lunges progressions and variations:
As the lunges require a bit of balance, the people with balance issues may find doing lunges, complicated if even hard. Consequently, you need to make sure you are comfortable with the movement before trying to do it with weight.
Body weight lunge:
- Step forward and bend your legs as described in 1, remain in that position and just go up and down for a previously decided number of reps. Then step back and swap leg. It is a simple way to avoid all the balance struggle.
- Using the concept described above step forward, bend your legs, step back and repeat with the same leg till you completed the number of reps you planned. Once done swap leg.
- Once comfortable with the two steps described above, you can go into alternate lunges.
Variations of lunges, from the hardest to the easiest.
Walking or stationary lunges, all the examples below can be done either walking it stationary.
Overhead lunges: keep arm straight, elbows locked and bar overhead.
Front lunges: bar in your collar bone and the front of your shoulders.
Back lunges: bar on back of shoulder.
Dumbbell lunges: here you could go overhead, with Dumbbells at chest level or on the side of your body.
Like the squats and the deadlift the lunges work the big muscles, Quads, hamstrings, gluteus and calves.
It is like the deadlift a "Lady" Favorite as it emphasizes a lot on the gluteus muscles.
The benefits of lunges:
They are numerous, from the balance improvement, the correction of imbalances and strengthening of weaker leg, as well as the speed and vertical jump.
Guys give it a try and share your sensations!