There’s a fine balance between range of motion and the amount of weight you use in an exercise. To keep your body safe and get the full benefit and intention of the exercise, range of motion should always be your priority. Use load only if and when you can maintain a perfect range of motion.
This is particularly true of the Lateral Lunge to Overhead Press. You’re probably familiar with these athletic movements—the Lateral Lunge and Bottoms-Up Plate Press. At first glance, they might look simple, but I assure you that if you execute them effectively, they can yield tremendous positive results.
These two movements are commonly seen as individual moves. If you’ve ever walked into a high-end athletic performance center, or into a yoga class, you have seen people get into a Lateral Lunge, sit back and load their hip, giving themselves a chance to understand the idea of weight-shifting. In yoga practice, the load is typically just your body. The more range of motion you have, the more you can feel and command your brain (nervous system) to control the movement. Before adding external load, it’s wise to control your body weight through the movement.
Only after you have achieved this is it advisable to add extra weight. This is where things can get tricky, since you can add load in several ways, or alter your body using the same weight, creating a new challenge and method of adaptation.
Let’s breathe some practical life into this by watching the above video. Rather than using a dumbbell and holding it by my side, above my head, or at 90 degrees, I specifically chose a plate. The plate challenged my grip strength and forced me to decrease the load I needed to provide a challenge while maintaining perfect range of motion.
The big picture I’m referring to is the ability to perform the Lateral Lunge through the complete range of motion while maintaining stability in the torso and upper extremities. If I were to choose a load that was too heavy, it would disrupt the overall movement and I would not reap the benefit of the exercise. I might still gain strength; however, this type of strength adaptation would lack direction and could lead to a dead end.
Coaching tip: Holding the weight at 90 degrees challenges the scapular stabilizers; in addition, the arm is in front of the body, allowing you to naturally want to sit back (as shown in the video). Before adding more weight, try changing the way you hold the weight or where you place it. This will lead to a more resilient, healthy, and injury-free body.