The Anatomy of a Perfect Lunge

Coming from a martial arts background, I was very fortunate to have the rule of perfect form drilled into my mind and body from the very start. Good technique is often referred to as building a solid foundation, and the metaphor couldn’t be more apt, as the better your form is, the better your balance will be, the more muscles you will engage, and the more you will be maximizing the exercise, and the overall workout. Let’s learn the basics of a proper lunge.

Common lunge errors

When it comes to exercises, and doing them properly, the lunge is one of the most abused I see in the gym. The 3 most common errors I see are:

  • The knee’s going over the toes from not taking a long enough stride length.

  • Leaning too far forward with the upper torso.

  • Poor posture, via hunched shoulders that are too far forward, instead of naturally slightly arched.

An example of improper lunge form notice the slumped shoulders, body leaning/sinking forward, and on the back toe, instead of the ball of the back foot.

The good news is a few simple tips can correct all of these common errors.

Tips for excellent form

  1. When descending into a lunge, the first thing to be aware of is that you are taking a long enough stride so that your knees are behind your toes during the entire lunge. You must step a little further that you normally would when walking to ensure the knees will be behind the toes the entire time.

  2. Naturally when we go to do a lunge, most of us lean forward too much and end up sinking with a slightly forward direction. The fix: as soon as you start to sink straight down, being mindful of not moving the upper torso forward, and be cognizant of having a straight back with the head facing forward.

Side note: At this stage in the movement a side glance into a mirror to check lunge form is essential. A few things to look for are: knees behind the toes, the back heel pointing towards the ceiling, and perfect posture from head to toe.

Tricks for perfect lunges

Sink deeper

After setting up your correct form sink into your lunge. You want the back knee to be within 2-4 inches of the ground. The deeper you lunge, the more muscles you engage, and the better you’ll benefit from the exercise.

Squeeze your glutes

Lastly, squeeze those butt muscles at the bottom of the movement before you start to push upwards. Make sure to also use the ball of the back foot, and the heel of the front foot equally upon ascension

When you use all of the techniques your lunge should look like this:

Proper Lunge form straight upper torso, centered weight, and proper use of back ball of the foot to assist the movement.

Often when I show clients the proper lunge, the response is unanimously the same; “I have never felt it like this,” with a look of surprise. When done properly, it can feel much different and be 100 times more effective.

Workouts with lunges and other strength exercises

Photo credit: Lululemon Athletica

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