Monday, June 20, 2011

Achieve a Deeper Lunge in 4 Steps

Last week I came to the defense of the lunge exercise. An exercise revered for its complexity and outstanding benefits, many gym goers still have a problem with this exercise. My previous article explained the many reasons I hear from people why they avoid including some sort of lunge movement into their program. That article can be read HERE.

The depth of the lunge exercise has always puzzled those brave enough to include them into workouts regularly. Some have issues with knee pain or hip discomfort when executing the lunge, but I have created a step-by-step approach to help exercisers increase the depth of their lunge. When I say "depth", I am referring to the back leg during the forward lunge movement--not the front propulsion leg.

A good depth tells you alot about a particular exerciser. It can tell you that a person is flexible, mobile, strong, agile, and coordinated. It could label someone as "athletic" or "fit" or "awesome". In any case, achieving an adequate depth promotes full range of motion, strength, and excellent hip function. Addressing lunge depth in these 4 steps will focus mainly on tissue quality, body awareness, and coordination. Here goes:

Step #1: Self Myofasical Release (SMR) on the Bottom of the Feet



If you are really sensitive to sole tenderness, begin with a tennis ball. You can increase or decrease the pressure by shifting your bodyweight. In most cases, I like a golf ball or lacrosse ball. Roll each foot bottom for about 30 seconds. The key area to address here is the joints of the toe (metatarsal) and plantar-fascia. I prefer you perform this with no socks.


Step #2: Stretch the Feet and Toes



Next, get down on the floor and perform the stretches detailed in the video. Again, I prefer that you stay barefoot and perform these stretches immediately after SMR with the ball. Don't put the balls away or check your messages on your iPhone. Get down on the floor and as your foot receptors are stimulated, stretch them using a rocking motion by shifting your body.

Step #3: SMR on Thighs



I prefer the Massage Stick over a foam roller here. Why? Because with the stick I can control and zero in on specific areas along the thigh that have trigger points. The main areas of concern will be the IT Band junction (lateral to knee) and the front quadriceps. You should roll the stick for about 30-40 seconds on each thigh and really apply pressure to areas that are tender. You have to call upon some "mental toughness" during this step because this can be rather agonizing. Again, perform this immediately after step two.

Step #4: Practice the Movement with Back Leg on a 6" Step and Stretch the Foot More


Here we are going to practice a lunge movement with the aid of a 6 inch box or step. Prop your back leg on the step behind you and really "dig" your toes (plantarflex). Place your front leg away from your torso at a distance that you feel you are comfortable in. Make sure your toes are pointing as straight ahead as possible. Next, descend slowly and feel the back foot being stretched with the aid of your body [as you lower]. Don't try to go too low too quick. The step will gradually increase your range with your improved tissue and muscle quality. 

Alas, your lunge should improve over a few workouts running through these four steps. I always prefer when you are in "practice mode", to take your shoes off and concentrate on learning your body. Your lunge will improve if you follow the steps outlined above. Each step should be perfromed immediately after another. Once you feel your coordination has improved, practice the lunge movement using assistance from an appartus like a cable tower:



Once your confidence improves with the lunge, I suggest you make it part of your program regularly. There is no other exercise that resembles human movement [locomotion] more than the lunge. To increase strength, you can then begin to add external loads using dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, or barbell. try it and let me know how it turns out!!

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