Over the past few years a lot of how I view exercise and fitness has changed and evolved along with the research as well as common sense. To be completely honest with you, the first 6 years I lifted weights I didn’t do a single lunge, deadlift or “core” exercise. Now almost every program I write for myself or my clients has at least some variation of these exercises.
Why? Because the first book I read on lifting weights was Arnold Schwartzenneger’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. Get strong, get lean, and train each bodypart individually.
So what changed?
For one, I decided to start reading books (should have done that years ago…oops). Books on training, physical therapy, soft tissue, movement, coaching, etc. So my coaching and training style has evolved from many of the concepts I have read and researched from those who are much smarter than I. And with their powers combined….I am Captain Planet.
Sorry, wrong Captain Planet. But since your here Al Gore, whats up with the weather lately? It’s flippin’ freezing out. Global warming my ass.
Anyways, the real reason I am writing today is because of a question I got from one of my clients today regarding why I have them do so many lunges. Her exact words were “I don’t feel like lunges get me any stronger so why do we do so many of them? Aren’t squats or deadlifts better?”
This is actually a loaded question since squats and deadlifts are the bees knees when it comes to lower body strength exercises. Are they better? Yes and no and it depends. I hope that answers your question.
Seriously though, it really depends on your anatomy, what your goals are, and how you move. Not everyone should lunge, not everyone should squat, and not everyone should deadlift. It takes a qualified trainer, coach, or physical therapist to determine this. Self-diagnosis almost never works.
When it comes to lunges though, the main reason that I incorporate them frequently is because they ARE important. From a functional point of view, they involve single-leg strength.
We are bi-pedal which means we walk one foot at a time. You could make a case for squats if you hopped everywhere but we walk, run, and sprint.
There are very few exercises that carry over to almost every sport but lunges are one of them. Hockey, football, fencing, soccer, ballet, MMA, golf, ninja, cricket, tennis, bowling, race walking, sumo, you name it they lunge.
Most people aren’t gong to be able to lunge 400 lbs. but that is not the point. What we are strenghtening is the movement and in turn working towards preventing injury. I mean, the wole reason we work out is to get stronger, stay fit, and prevent injury right?
Oh, the bodyfat thing. Yeah, lunges will burn a ton of calories as well. Have you ever noticed how you get a little winded after completing a set of weighted lunges? They are a full body exercise and involves many muscles so they will make you sexy.
Like I said before, lunges are a great exercise but they should not be in everyone’s program. I have clients who have had knee surgeries, have neuromuscular diseases, and have total knee replacements. Guess what I do not put in their programs?
As for everyone else, there are probably close to 100 lunge variations that you can add to your program. Forwards, backwards, walking, diagonal, dumbbell, barbell, one hand, overhead, static, and the list of combinations goes on.
Which one is best for you depends on what your goals are. For most athletes, weekend warriors, and the general public, being proficient in bodyweight lunges in all directions should be a standard for fitness and injury prevention.
Our knee is built to withstand force in all directions and we should train it that way. For example, think about what would happen to someone who doesn’t train with multi-planar knee exercises who trips while walking down the street. They don’t fall but they have to catch themselves in a lunge or diagonal lunge. This unfamiliar movement is going to cause trauma that their knee may not be able to handle.
I begin most of my clients with reverse lunges and progress to walking, diagonal, lateral and rotational lunges. Personally I am not a huge proponent of forward lunges where you step back. I have found them hard to coach and even harder for people to learn how to do them well.
Once you have mastered the lunge, it is time to load it with anything from a weightvest to dumbbells to a barbell. If you are trying to get strong and sexy, adding resistance to your exercises is the ticket (only second to a solid diet).
In conclusion, unless you have a legit reason you are not doing lunges get off the damn adductor or leg curl machine and start busting out some lunges. They will make your dreams come true, fo sho.