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  • Matt Breton

Lifting: Lunge


In the scope of getting stronger, squatting is one of the primary movements (remember- Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Loaded Carry). As with the hinge movements, there are many versions of the squat. One website I found lists 38 variations!

Squats are typically described as a lower body strengthening exercise, but once weight is added, usually through a barbell across the shoulders or dumbbells in the hands, the movement really requires trunk strength and control, making it a whole body strengthener. Some variations, like a squat-press or overhead squat, even incorporate shoulder strength.

While a standard back squat is a really good way to get strong, I find that its functional equivalence, how well it translates into everyday life, is limited. I recommend building up basic strength in the form of back squatting up to a 5 repetition maximum of 1.3x bodyweight. After that, I think maintaining the strength of the back squat (performing that 5 rep max work once every two weeks) is sufficient and that an outdoor athlete is better off working on the lunge as a more useful strength training exercise in the realm of squats.

The lunge has many forms itself. A static lunge is also referred to as a split squat, where both feet remain in position while the movement is performed. For training purposes, this is a good place to start. Once the form is learned and well executed, it is time to move on to either a walking lunge (my favorite) or an alternating lunge.

The lunge pictured here isn't textbook perfect- but it fits within the general framework of how to perform one.

To perform a lunge, one foot is out in front of the other- a large step.

Then drop down so that each knee bends to 90*- the rear thigh and trunk should form a generally straight line. The knee of the forward leg should be above the ankle and not ahead of, or inside, the toes.

For a walking lunge, come up and bring the rear leg forward into a big step and repeat. For an alternating lunge, step the forward leg back to the start position and switch.

Common issues are knees collapsing in (indicating weak hips) or a lot of forward trunk lean (poor core strength and/or tight hip flexors).

In general, weight can be added once 20-30 reps are able to be performed well with bodyweight movement. The weight can be in a backpack, dumbbells or kettlebells. Offset weight (held on one side) will challenge balance and control more and is probably most helpful for hunters. Another progression, for people wanting more explosive power (trail runners or tele skiers in the off season), is to perform a jump lunge, where you explode up from the bottom position and alternate leg positions in the air, then land, controlling the descent into the bottom position to repeat.

The lunge is a powerful exercise with real world application- have some fun with it, but get the form right!


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