Functional fitness is about making sure you have no muscular imbalances – and lunges are the perfect move to prevent that from happening
Exercise should be as much about functional fitness as it is raw power. We work out in the gym so that we can take that energy, mobility and strength into the real world to complete everyday tasks. With that in mind, we’ve got to make sure that both sides of the body are equal.
You can squat until the cows come home but if you have an imbalance, working on both legs isn’t going to help. To really assess your range of motion, you want to exercise one leg at a time.
That’s where lunges come into their own. Not only can you work on each leg individually but you add weights or jumps to make the move more dynamic and compound (exercising more than one muscle at once). They’re a great foundation for more complex moves like single-leg deadlifts or pistol squats.
WHICH MUSCLES AM I WORKING?
- Quadriceps (front thighs)
- Hamstrings (back thighs)
- Glutes (bum)
HOW TO DO THE PERFECT LUNGE
- Stand up tall, hands on your hips
- Step forwards with your right foot so that nearly all of your weight in on the right
- Your left leg is outstretched behind with just your toes on the ground
- Bend your right knee until it reaches a 90’ angle – making sure that it doesn’t go beyond your toes
- Bend your left knee at the same time so that it hovers just above the ground
- Lift your front lunging leg back to the starting position and go again
Repeat for 12 reps on the right leg before switching to do 12 reps on the left.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
Slow it down
It’s all about the range of motion rather than sprinting your way through the move so lunge mindfully.
Lunging is all about the angles
Eventually, you want to form a 90’ angle between your thighs and calves.
Keep your knees behind your toes
Weight should be back in your heels at all times.
Engage the core
Keep those abs locked to give you greater balance.
Keep your knees facing forwards
You don’t want them to face out to the sides but keep everything aligned.
Instead of lunging on one leg then another, jumping lunges have you switching between legs. Get into your lunge position then lightly jump to switch legs over, taking care as you come back down to land softly (on your heel in the front foot and on your toes in the back foot). Use your arms to propel you up and safely down.
Don’t be fooled by the same, this is most definitely a lunge. This time, you don’t have to move your feet at all until it’s time to change sides. Get into your lunge stand and keep your feet in place, lift yourself up and down. It’s the back leg that does the most dynamic work here. Add weight to make it more challenging.
Instead of lunging on the spot, lunge forward and then lunge with the other leg to take the next step. Add some weight (a dumbbell in each hand or a heavy kettlebell) to increase the load. Be careful not to slam your knee into the floor as you go.
Instead of lunging forwards, this is a backward lunge with a difference – your back foot can’t touch the ground. It’s fantastic for improving balance as well as leg strength. Stand up straight and take a step backward. Bend towards the ground, back knee hovering off the ground but don’t let the foot touch and then come back up to standing.
Images: Getty, Instagram
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Miranda Larbi is a freelance fitness and wellness journalist, and qualified personal trainer. When she’s not finding new vegan places to eat, she can be found training for the next marathon or cycling across London on a Tokyo bike.