Most Misused or Abused Exercises Edition #1 – The Walking Lunge

Posted: August 29, 2014 by dannytwoguns in Abused and Misused Exercises, Articles

The walking lunge seems to be the go-to exercise for almost every mediocre personal trainer and aerobics instructor. This blog post’s motivation comes from a couple months ago when I saw what looked to be an aerobics class outside of the gym it was a class of and the class consisted of the entire group doing walking lunges “up” and “down” the street. I say “up” and “down” because there was literally an incline to the road and they were going both directions. Some even had dumbbells being pressed over their head while they lunged. And about 1 of the 12 was doing it correctly and was even qualified to be able to do the movement.

The walking lunge is not a bad exercise by any means. There are certainly better lunge variation choices in my opinion absolutely, like the Ultimate Sandbag Rotation Lunge, but that is not my argument right now. Im not against the walking lunge even though we never use it at our facility. But I am however against the walking lunge for people who are incapable or unqualified to be doing the movement safely, effectively and with the requisite movement competency and strength to do so, which is essentially every beginner and even most intermediates. Why it seems to be the default lunge variation – I don’t know.

The walking lunge utilizes a split stance pattern (one leg in front of the other, both legs on the ground) in which you step forward and then bring the trail leg up to meet it. Both knees go through a significant amount of deceleration of your bodyweight plus momentum to be able to do the movement. As well as a significant amount of strength to be able to pull your body forward to finish the “walk”. This is an amount of deceleration strength and overall strength no beginner has and few intermediates even have. And if you don’t have it, is usually means angry hips, knees and lower backs.

Walking Lunge Stock Pic

So enough pooping on the walking lunge – what is a better alternative?

Well that answer is – as always – the variation that is right for you.

To start, the reverse lunge is a better option than the forward lunge because the amount of deceleration required is decreased significantly. But before even that, you have to be able to control the movement and have the strength to do it without a deceleration or a forward/reverse movement to it at all.

What option is that? It is called a Split Squat. Same movement except no deceleration required.

Walking Lunge Blog 1

Walking Lunge Blog 2

But, most beginners don’t have the strength to even complete that movement or the stability to do it pain free. So what now? That is the most basic bodyweight exercise and bodyweight is the easiest variation, no?

No.

We can assist the movement and allow the client to be able to complete the movement without having to bear all of their weight. We have two progressions of that and this is usually where most beginners start. It doesn’t make them bad people or inadequate in any way, it simply gives them the ability to perform the movement pattern itself without excessive deceleration, stability or strength that people don’t start necessarily start with.

For the most assistance we use a suspension trainer with both hands.

Walking Lunge Blog 3

This gives a complete assistance of balance and a variable amount of assistance for performing the movement depending on how much you use your arms for help.

For less assistance and a little more weight bearing, we use a dowel in one hand for assistance.

Walking Lunge Blog 4

Les assistance in balance and less ability to help use your arms to assist but still helping perform the movement.

Then once they’ve mastered that, we can progress to either the bodyweight version or we can use the Ultimate Sandbag to make you stabilize your body but assisting you by giving you the ability to engage your core and counterbalance as needed. So even though we add weight, we assist the movement. This variation is mainly for people who need some “core engagement.”

The main point is there are a lot of steps and progressions you need to own in order to get to a walking lunge (even though I’d argue you never have to), it isn’t just where you automatically start and shouldn’t be if you are a human being. It doesn’t make you a bad or inadequate person to not be able to perform one of the harder lunge variations right away, it makes you normal and going through all of the progressions until you’ve mastered them is the easy way to success – and pain-free knees and hips while performing them, because it isn’t the “lunge” that hurts you, it is the way you do them and there is absolutely no shame in assisting the movement until you can “own” it and perform it pain free and effectively.

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