Lunges are one of the most commonly performed exercises in rehab and general fitness alike – and for good reason. You are able to target different muscle groups or movement patterns just simply by changing up lunge directions from forward, to backwards, to sideways, or even into a curtsey squat. In this video, we’re going to dissect one of the easiest ways to spice up your lunges by simply changing directions. Furthermore, we’re going to dive into the nuisances of the weight distribution in the lunge. Lastly, we’ll also cover programming rationales for when to choose one lunge variation over another, alternating vs walking lunges, as well as Mike’s favorite lunge variation!
I love lunges and the split stance position as a whole. Not only is it a good bridge between double leg to single leg exercises, but you can target a lot of different muscles for activation or stretching based on the plane of motion/lunge you choose!
ROTATIONAL LUNGE DIRECTIONS
Transverse and curtsey lunges are great for introducing transverse plane loads to the knee and controlling tri-planar motion. Rotational lunges are considered for most to be a progression or more advanced option than your traditional forward or backwards lunges. Adding arm drivers or medballs is a great way to increase demand at the hip/core as well. If rotation at your knee makes you feel nervous, don’t worry that’s okay! You’ve probably heard or been instructed before never to let the knee collapse or rotate, but in all reality that happens all the time in life. You don’t pick up objects directly in front of you nor do you go upstairs exactly up and down in a straight line. Sometimes you move sideways or turn while reaching. These are all natural motions that your knee can in fact handle, it just may take some time getting used to.
BACKWARD LUNGE DIRECTIONS
Reverse or backward lunges are great for targeting the posterior chain (glutes/hamstrings) and naturally allows a more forward trunk lean. The biggest fault I see when people do reverse lunges is they shift their weight back into their rear leg and don’t keep their weight on their front leg. The working leg in the backwards lunge should always be the front leg. Yes, in a lunge you will use both of your legs to push, but your should be pushing much more with your front leg than your back leg in a backward lunge. A really cool added benefit of a backward lunge direction is that you can get a really nice stretch of one of your hip flexors (the rectus femoris) in the rear leg during the step back. To do so, make sure to hold your belly button in and keep your back from arching.
FORWARD LUNGE DIRECTIONS
The forward lunge is great for targeting the knee and naturally allows a more forward tibia translation over the foot. Remember, knees past toes isn’t inherently a bad thing! The forward lunge is unique in that you actually use a lot of your rear leg to return to the starting position when doing forward lunges in place, using the rectus femoris in a lengthened position. So walking backward lunges actually are a great way to target the quads in a lengthened position.
SIDEWAYS LUNGE DIRECTIONS
The lateral lunge is great for targeting the frontal plane hip muscles like the adductors and hip abductors. The fault I most commonly see with this is people like to pull themselves back up to the starting position with their post leg (the leg that is straight). The working leg is the leg that you shift your weight to with the bent knee, so use that leg to PUSH yourself back to the starting position towards your other leg. If you want to target the inside thigh a bit more, you can PULL yourself up and bring your extended leg towards you. Now you have two different variations of the same sideways lunge direction that can be equally as effective! When it comes to stretching, you can also get a really nice adductor stretch through the post leg.