In the previous article we discussed the half kneel position which is the foundation for the lunge and split stance movements. These positions are unique to humans in that we are bi pedal mammals and dissociation of each side of the pelvis is important for ambulation activity such as walking and running.
The ability for the body to stabilize and transfer energy through the torso and pelvis with one leg in the front position and one in the rear allows for not only daily function but also for athletic performance.
The proper body checkpoints of the lunge are as follows:
- Vertical spine with head straight
- Shoulder blades retracted back without shoulder rounding.
- Ears in line with shoulders, hip and knee of leg on the ground.
- Front leg assumes a 90-degree angle with tibia vertical over ankle.
- Back leg assumes a 90-degree angle with knee directly under hip.
- Front knee stays in line with the front foot and does not translate inward.
- Pelvis is level like balancing a bowl of water. Front belt line is level with back belt line.
These are key points regarding your form and technique to take note of during the movement. Depending on your height and hip anatomy, some mild variances may be noted as assuming a perfect 90-degree angle at the hips and knees may not be achievable.
It’s the focus on the good positioning that will ensure proper muscle sequencing patterns and reduce compensatory techniques
Exercise #1: Assisted Reverse Lunge Correction
The reverse lunge is a great way to retrain the movement pattern while ensuring proper technique. If you are not good with lunges, this is a good place to start.
This move ensures proper sequencing of the pelvic muscles with attention to the torso position. Forward lunges sometimes promote excessive quad dominance and anterior knee translation.
Forward lunges are still a good exercise but reverse lunges tend to target the appropriate musculature with better focus on pelvic dissociation.
Hook a band anchored overhead with it looped under your shoulders. This support will help to unload your body weight for assistance with the movement.
- Take a step backward with one foot behind you and the other foot staying stationary in front of you.
- Take note to ensure your pelvis is level. Imagine your front belt line being level with your back belt line. Imagine that your pelvis is a bowl of water and you do want it to tip too far in one direction to avoid spilling.
- While maintaining a level pelvis, drop your body straight down against the resistance of the band so both knees and hips create a 90-degree angle.
- Return to the start position by allowing the band to help assist back up. Focus on pushing through the mid foot region of your front foot and back foot toes.
- Repeat 15 times alternating sides.
Exercise #2: Slider Reverse Lunges
While ensuring the proper checkpoints of the lunge, use a furniture slider to move one foot behind you as you control yourself dropping down into the second position.
- Focus on controlling your torso to prevent loss of balance or leaning forward. Also focus on preventing the front knee for translating inward.
- Return to the start position by focusing on pushing through the mid foot region of the front foot as well as pressure through the back foot.
- Repeat 15 times each side.
Form tip: Place a foam roller standing vertically in front of your front foot. This will ensure you have to move backwards and avoid anterior knee translation so as not to hit the foam roller. It will also help you to focus on keeping the knee in line with the ankle and avoid it translating inward.
Exercise #3: Slider Lateral Lunges
Using the slider, move one foot out to the side while focusing on maintaining a level pelvis and upright torso.
- Focus on the level torso, bowl of water concept.
- Also take note of your knee and hip alignment on the stance leg while preventing the stance leg knee from translating inward.
- Avoid arching the low back or pitching forward at the torso.
- Move as far out to the side as you can while demonstrating control with the form and then return back to your feet being together.
- Repeat 15 times each side.
Exercise #4: Runner Stride Kettlebell/Dumbbell Push
This is a great exercise for training power during running mechanics.
- Start in the bottom lunge position or otherwise known as half kneeling, while holding a weight at chest height. A kettle bell or a dumbbell will work equally.
- Simultaneously push up into a single leg position while pressing the weight away from you in an outward and upward direction.
- Pause to ensure control and no loss of balance.
- Try to stabilize your torso and hips while balancing on the one leg. Then return down to the start position while ensuring your finish with good lunge form.
- This exercise will be slightly more taxing in that it will work the entire body since the arms are now involved.
- Repeat 8-10 times each side.
Exercise #5: Split Stance Lunge
Assume a split stance position.
- Position one foot in the front with the tibia vertical to the foot and ankle.
- Position the rear foot behind you to where you are on your toes or mid foot and can control your balance in that position.
- Level your pelvis to avoid low back arching while while dropping straight down so your hip and knee angles are about 90 degrees.
- Return to the start position by controlling your balance and pushing through the front foot as well as the toes of the rear foot with even weight distribution.
- The focus of this exercise is practice moving with good control in a narrow base of support position.
- Repeat 15 times each side.
Progress it by adding a weight to hold on one side. The unilateral hold of a weight will challenge the core and hip muscles by opposing the pull of the resistance.
Make sure to keep the weight in line with the side of your body so that your shoulder and arm is in line with your ear and hip.
It is harder to hold the weight on the “open side” which is the side with the leg in the rear position.
To progress the split stance lunge even further progress the weight to the overhead position.
- Start by positioning the weight in the overhead locked out position in standing first.
- Move one foot to the rear position and ensure you can maintain balance with the stance first.
This can be done with a kettle bell or dumbbell.
Kettle bells will demand a greater grip response and control of the wrist, which will cause a greater response in the shoulder for posture control.
- Point your knuckles towards the ceiling and while trying to maintain alignment of your wrist, shoulder, torso and hips, drop straight down while controlling the weight overhead.
- Return to the start position. This can be done for reverse lunges as well.
- Focus on form and control without your low back arching.
- Repeat 15 times each time
Once you can demonstrate good control of your torso and hips in half kneeling, progressing to lunges and split stance patterns will help translate into functional and athletic performance.
Always ensure good control and execution with body weight first.
Use of assistance bands can help you to learn the movement pattern while preventing excessive strain and compensation. Progressing to resistance will help to strengthen the movement pattern and muscle performance in these positions.
These moves are simple and effective, requiring minimal equipment and can provide a tremendous return in benefit.
Again, these are suggestions of where to start and a guide towards how to execute properly. You can always be creative with concepts as long as you are performing them safely and appropriately.
About The Author:
Michael St. George PT, DPT has been practicing for 10 years primarily in the outpatient and orthopedic setting. He works for a physical therapist owned private practice based in the greater Philadelphia area and surrounding suburbs. Mike is certified through Functional Movement Systems for FMS, SFMA and FCS which consist of screens and testing used to measure movement quality and performance. Mike also has experience with working with numerous surgeons and physicians from the Rothman institute. Currently he works primarily with ACL, meniscus and post surgical recovery and sports injuries, return to sport testing and performance, running evaluation and re training and hand and upper extremity conditions.