One of the most notorious knee-pounding exercises in any athlete's training program is the traditional Alternating Forward Lunge. Though the Lunge is considered one of the six fundamental movement patterns (along with the squat, hip-hinge, push, press and carry), the exercise has some glaring issues, both from an execution and biomechanics perspective.
First, the Forward Lunge can exacerbate chronic overuse injuries at the knee, from overloading a pattern that requires high amounts of sheer and compressive forces from the quadriceps and directed through the kneecap. This is why many athletes present with front-sided knee pain and soreness after competition and training.
Two of the most common form breakdowns in the Lunge occur at the bottom position: the knee moving too far out over the foot; and the knee moving toward the middle of the body. This is known as valgus knee collapse, and it's one of the most notable factors in predisposing and preventing traumatic non-contact knee injuries in athletes.
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This movement can be fixed quickly by cueing the knee to drive outward toward the pinky toe, creating a strong line of tension down the entire lower body and improving torque and stability through the all-important hips. Also, by limiting the distance that the knee travels over the foot on the front side of the Lunge, we can reduce additional compressional forces at the patella.
If these cues fail to clean up the Forward Lunge, I implement one of my favorite modifications for this movement pattern, the Non-Alternating Reverse Lunge. This variation allows an athlete to tap into his or her glutes and hamstrings at increased rates, making the backside of their body more active. It translates to more stability and a better transference to the field of play.
The biggest difference between the Forward Lunge and the Reverse Lunge, aside from the direction of your step, is the angle at which you hold your torso. During the Reverse Lunge, you tilt your torso slightly forward, kicking in your glutes and hamstrings to a greater extent at the bottom of the motion.
Using bigger muscle groups efficiently creates strong and stable bodies that perform well on the field. Make the modification—and reap the benefits of knee health and long-term function of your lower body.
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