There’s a simple way to target your glutes during a Lunge, and it only requires a small adjustment to the exercise.
You’ve likely been doing the Lunge pretty much the same way since you learned how to perform it.
Take an exaggerated step forward with one leg and drop your rear knee below your torso until it’s about an inch above the ground. Your front thigh should be parallel (or almost parallel) to the ground, and your front knee should be above or slightly in front of your ankle. At this point, you’re told to keep your chest up so your torso is perpendicular to the ground.
There’s nothing wrong with this technique. In fact, it’s the description of what’s considered ideal form.
This primarily targets your quads, although your other lower-body muscles contribute to the movement.
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However, a study recently brought to our attention by sports science researcher Chris Beardsley assessed how a forward leaning torso changes the Lunge.
In comparison to the form for a traditional Lunge, a forward leaning torso increases glute activation and reduces quad activation, probably because your hips need to move through a greater range of motion as you drive up out of the Lunge, as shown below.
Although the forward leaning torso was only studied in the Forward Lunge, you can also apply it to Reverse Lunges and Walking Lunges.
So why lunge with this modification?
The Lunge is an incredibly valuable exercise for building single-leg strength, which is an essential attribute for success in virtually every sport. However, many athletes have overly strong quads, either because of the nature of their sport or because they focus too much on building their quads in the weight room.
The forward leaning position addresses these concerns by shifting the focus from the quads to the glutes—the largest and most powerful muscle group in the body. That’s not to say it doesn’t work the quads, but it simply makes the glutes work harder.
It’s also a bit easier on the knees, making the Lunge friendlier to those who suffer from chronic knee pain.
For these reasons, the forward leaning position has been my preferred way to lunge since I tried it in Dr. John Rusin’s Functional Hypertrophy Training Program. I feel it provides a better all-round training effect for the lower body, and it’s easier on my knee, which has a torn PCL.
Should everyone use this modification? There are valid reasons to opt for the forward lean, but they don’t necessarily mean everyone should lunge this way. For example, if you specifically want to build quad strength, the traditional Lunge is still the way to go.
It’s just another tool in your toolbox to build the strength you need to be successful in your sport or in life.
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