3 Lunge Variations You Should Be Doing

Lunges are one of the simplest forms of exercise, but they're very effective when done properly. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Everyone knows how to do a basic lunge; these three variations take it to the next level.

For the most part, running takes place in what’s called the sagittal plane — think forward and back. However, there is a lot more going on than catches the eye.

A tremendous amount of stability and control has to be provided in the frontal plane — think side to side — when you run. Improving strength, stability and mobility (follow me here) in the frontal plane can reduce your risk for injury by loosening tight hip muscles (e.g. groin) and strengthening weak hip stabilizers (e.g. gluteus medius). This is where lunge variations play a major role in a runner’s strength training routine.

Why Lunge?

Asymmetrical standing exercises, like lunges, are great for challenging a runner’s balance, proprioception and dynamic flexibility. Lunge exercises change the load distribution and emphasize one leg rather than two (picture a bilateral stance used in a squat or a leg press).

Lastly, these exercise variations also challenge and improve dynamic stability in the torso and lower body. Therefore, these exercises may have more carryover to improving the running stride compared to bilateral leg exercises.

RELATED: Monday Minute: Dumbbell Reverse Lunge

Getting More Out Of Your Lunges

Most people are familiar with traditional lunge variations, such as the in-line lunge, also referred to as a split squat, and the walking lunge, where a series of lunges are performed one right after the other. Many runners can benefit from these lunge variations, but there are other lunge patterns most are not familiar with.

The hip dominant lunge and lateral lunge versions will challenge your body in unique ways compared to the traditional versions mentioned above. As with any new exercise, use caution when performing the first few repetitions. Use a load that is manageable so you can achieve good and safe technique. The groin is placed under a tremendous stretch during the lateral lunge, so lower yourself slowly. The knees can also experience high forces when squatting lower, so depending on your injury history and current ability, use discretion and determining your lunge depth.

Your New Lunge Variations

Hip Dominant–Forward Lunge With Dumbbells
Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Stand with your feet together and take a small step forward. Transfer most of your weight to your front leg as you hinge forward from your hips.

Keep your back straight and shoulders back. You should feel tension in your hamstring of the forward leg. Stand and return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite leg. Alternate sides until you have completed 8-10 repetitions per side. Perform 2-3 sets.

RELATED: TRX Lunge And Lunge Hop

Lateral Goblet Lunge
Hold a dumbbell length-wise in front of your chest with your elbows pointing downward (goblet position). In a wide stance with your feet pointing straight, push your hips back and squat to one side. Keep both feet flat on the floor and the opposite leg straight.

Lean forward slightly but maintain most of the weight back over the heels. Do not round your back and ensure your squatting shin remains vertical. Return to the starting position and lunge to the opposite side.

To increase the difficulty, start with your feet together and step laterally. Following the step, lower yourself into the bottom of the lunge. Push down forcefully to return to the starting position. Perform 8-10 repetitions per side for 2-3 sets.

Cossack Goblet Squat
This lateral lunge variation places a unique stretch on the hamstrings because of the leg rotation performed at the bottom of the lunge. Hold a dumbbell length-wise in front of your chest with your elbows pointing downward (goblet position). In a wide stance with your feet pointing straight, push your hips back and squat to one side.

As you descend, slowly rotate your straight leg upward. Keep your opposite foot flat on the ground and lean slightly forward. Do not round your back and ensure your squatting shin remains vertical. Return to the starting position and squat to the opposite side.

To increase the difficulty, start with your feet together and step laterally. Following the step, lower yourself into the bottom of the squat while simultaneously rotating your straight leg upward. Push down forcefully to return to the starting position. Perform 8-10 repetitions per side for 2-3 sets.

RELATED: Flexibility Tests For Runners

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About The Author:
Jon-Erik Kawamoto, CSCS, CEP is a runner, strength coach and owner of JKConditioning in St. John’s, NL, Canada. Jon specializes in strength training endurance athletes and is currently in the middle of preparing a strength training resource for runners. Stay in touch by checking out www.JKConditioning.com.

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