The ONE Exercise–Lunges

I’m not a big proponent of wildly claiming that one exercise modality, one piece of equipment or even one exercise is the end-all and be-all of fitness. There are just too many good ideas, good pieces of equipment (including what you create yourself) and exercises to be that exclusive.

But, if I had to choose one exercise that you can do anywhere and modify in ways to attack other body parts and challenge other aspects of your fitness, I would opt for the LUNGE. The basic movement attacks your quads, glutes and hamstrings, but creative options can challenge your core, the supportive muscles of your ankles, your shoulders and your biceps.

So many of our daily activities (um…like walking) and the sports we love to do (running, cycling and even kayaking) require using one leg at a time, that doing lunges just makes functional sense. For those looking to strengthen their legs for running stairs, up hills or for hiking, backpacking or mountaineering, the lunge is an exercise that simulates what your legs will be going through and helps build the strength you need.

How to: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight, head up and abs tight, then take a large step forward with your right leg and lunge down toward the floor until your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Once you reach the bottom, drive your body back up with your right leg until you are in a standing position. Repeat the same movement with your left leg and continue alternating until you reach the number of repetitions you’d like to complete. You can also do one leg to completion and switch to the other leg.

Start with the basic lunge and then you can try any number of variations:

Dumbell/Kettlebell Lunge–same movement with weights held at your sides.

Barbell Lunges–with a  barbell held behind the head as in traditional squats.

Overhead Lunges–holding weight (kettlebell, dumbells, sand bags, barbell, a chair, your neighbor) over your head.

Overhead Slosh Pipe Lunges–Oh no! The water inside the pipe moves and challenges my balance and core stability! These are one of my favorites.

Any of these Lunges Stepping Onto a Foam Pad–depending on the thickness or density this will challenge your ankles and your balance.

Lunge while holding slosh pipe with straight arms at chest height. Try it first with a static hold. For more of a challenge, rotate your torso to the non-lunge side as you step.

All of the above (except the foam pad) can be done while doing a walking lunge as well.

All of the above can be done while doing a balance lunge–with your back foot resting on a chair, in a sling/TRX/webbing, or held by your training partner.

Best of all, lunges can be done anywhere. So, no more excuses for not getting a good leg workout. Now, everyone get up and try a few lunges–and, let me know if you have any creative/challenging variations of your own.

~ by kipwkoelsch on May 7, 2009.

One Response to “The ONE Exercise–Lunges”

  1. Definitely. I suffered shin splints for years and was stretching my calves and hamstrings more often than I was actually using them with no reduction in the pain. I incorporated some lunges, voila, shin splints were gone in 2 months. Muscle imbalance I guess.

    I like the blog Kip.


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