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Functional Exercises: Lunges

The beginning of March means a new post on functional exercises. If you don’t recall or you’re new here, functional exercises are exercises that mimic movements you do in your daily life. They work to improve strength, balance, and coordination as well as joint range of motion and overall quality of life. Functional exercises recruit multiple muscle groups, which means they use more than one joint and take more energy to perform. A plus for fat loss. But, these exercises use free weights, like dumbbells and kettlebells, or bodyweight instead of exercise machines. Exercise machines target one specific joint or group of muscles.

In January and February, I wrote on deadlifts and squats. This month it's lunges. A lunge is a cross between a squat and the hinge movement that is done with deadlifts. They mimic movements similar to getting up from the ground, walking, running, and going up and down the stairs. So, if you have issues doing any of these activities of daily living you should include lunges in your workouts.

As a functional exercise, lunges target the muscles in the legs above and below the knee. They also target your back and core muscles. This means that lunges improve your balance and build stronger muscles in your legs. Stronger leg muscles mean you’ll be able to absorb the impact of higher intensity movements like walking and running on pavement for long periods. Lunges also improve hip mobility.

Here's How to Perform a Forward Lunge

  • Feet shoulder-width apart

  • Take a big step forward with one foot

  • Shift your weight forward allowing the heel of that foot to hit the floor first

  • Lower body until that thigh is parallel to the floor and the shin is vertical

  • Aim to tap the knee of the back leg to the floor (don’t actually do it though)

  • Press the front leg into the floor to drive yourself back up to the starting position

Things to Remember

  • Your lead knee should not go past your toes as you lower toward the ground

  • The rear knee should not touch the ground

  • Keep your hips symmetrical

Once you’ve gotten down the forward lunge try these out as well:

  • Reverse lunges

  • Walking lunges

  • Lateral lunges

  • Curtsy lunges

  • Clock lunges

  • Single leg deadlifts

  • Split squats

  • Kickstand deadlifts

When it becomes too easy, hold a weight in both hands or to one side and perform lunges to add a new level of difficulty.

You're probably thinking your knees can't handle lunges. Start out with a simple forward lunge and don't go too deep into it. Your consistency will strengthen the muscles around your knees to relieve the pain when walking, running, and taking the stairs.

You can do it!


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