One of the most basic movement patterns that you perform daily without even realizing it is lunging. The lunge requires core stability, single leg balance, and strength in your lower half to keep you upright, stable, and moving with ease. And, it just so happens to mimic the movements we make when we run, take the stairs, or simply walk. That’s why it’s critical to master your lunge form.
“Lunges are one of those exercises that transfers to everyday life—whether you’re walking, going upstairs, or [going] downstairs,” says Michael Septh, an Aaptiv trainer and NYC-based personal trainer. “It might not be the same range of motion, but you’re stabilizing on one leg and maneuvering from hip to hip throughout your day,” just as you do in a lunge. While many of the exercises we do work both legs at once, it’s important to do these one-legged movements correctly so that you’re steadier on your feet.
The Key to Proper Lunge Form
The biggest mistake that Septh sees people make with their lunge form is distributing their weight in the wrong spot. “A lot of people put weight on their back knee,” he says. “But, you should load lunges into the front hip and heel, not the knees.” (Ever feel knee pain while lunging? This is probably why.)
A few other lunge form notes: Make sure to bend both knees equally, Septh says, and maintain a nice tall torso. “Use your hands on your hips as a cue to stay upright,” he suggests. “Don’t grip the floor with your toes. Instead, think of pushing through your midfoot and heel.”
For a front lunge, work to push off that front foot to stand back up, rather than pulling yourself up with the back leg, Septh advises. And, for a reverse lunge, think about pulling from the glute and hamstring of your front leg, while keeping weight in the heel of that front foot.
Techniques to Improve Lunge Form
If you find that you’re experiencing knee discomfort during lunges, have wobbly legs as you go, or just don’t feel 100 percent confident in your ability to perform the move, then it’s time to take it down a notch. Here are three ways to get stronger through your lunge, according to Septh.
For added stability, opt for lightly holding onto a TRX, the wall, or a barre—anything that you can place your hands on for extra balance, Septh recommends. Then, start with your feet staggered and drop down into a split squat with both knees bent 90 degrees. Push back up to stand and repeat, keeping your feet staggered (so that you don’t step forward or backward.)
Move on to a hands-free split squat
Once you feel sturdy in that supported lunge, work on a standing split squat without holding onto anything. You’ll start with your feet staggered, with a mat or block on the floor between your legs. Bend both knees 90 degrees. Try to go low enough until you lightly tap the block or mat with your back knee. Stand back up and repeat.
Work on your glutes
Besides practicing the split squat with or without assistance, you also have to have strong pelvic integrity. This means that you don’t arch or round your low spine while performing the move. To help, start with pelvic tilts. Lie on your back on the floor, and plant your feet on the ground. Flatten your back against the floor by engaging your abs and tucking your pelvis slightly. After a few reps, move on to glute bridges by squeezing your glutes and lifting your hips toward the ceiling. Slowly lower back down and repeat.