Troubleshooting the Lunge: How to Fix Your Form

Follow these tips to improve your lunge form and watch your single-leg strength and athletic performance improve.

Although the Lunge can be a great exercise, many things can be done wrong, allowing the exercise to create problems. I've discussed the Lunge form issues of knee caving, pelvic tilting, proper hip and knee position, etc., in previous articles and videos. These are things you will see many qualified professionals talking about.

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Another flaw I see a lot in Reverse Lunges—and even more in Split Squats, which are basically stationary Lunges—is improper weight distribution between the front and back legs.

When you do a Lunge or Split Squat, your front leg should be the focal point and primary worker of the exercise. Your back leg is simply there for moral support. Yet when I coach clients,  I see encounter many people who think their back leg is the one they are "working." It seems obvious to me that the lunging/squatting leg is the leg that is "working," but I have come to realize that it is not always obvious to others, especially to those who lack seasoning in proper training and exercise.

So what's wrong with their lunge form that causes people to think their back leg is the one "working?" Using the Split Squat as an example, when you move down and up, it's easy to let an excessive amount of your body weight shift to your back leg. If your front leg lacks adequate stability and strength, the natural tendency is to let your back leg take up more stress to make the exercise manageable.

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There will and should be some weight on your back leg. You will feel your hip flexors and quads stretching and/or stabilizing on that leg. Part of the point of doing a Split Squat is to have the assistance and support of the back leg so you can move and work more effectively on the front leg; thus, you are going to feel something. However, it should be just that—assistance and support, not the all-out, big daddy mover of the exercise. The front leg is your focal point and you should drive strongly through it.

With a Reverse Lunge, this same shift can be excessive on the way down, though it's usually not as bad, since the back leg isn't down for the entire duration of the exercise. What often happens with the Reverse Lunge is the back leg and foot are used excessively to push off to assist the front leg on the way up. This is also not desirable.

So how do we fix these problems?

With the Split Squat, there are a couple of things you can do.

  1. When you get into your split stance, shift forward, then backward and feel the weight distribution. Once you feel it, shift most of your weight to your front leg. Find the arch of your foot and push through your heel on the way up. This will get your glutes, quads and hamstrings to engage better and allow you to feel things better on your front leg.
  2. As you finish coming up, lift your back foot off the floor and emphasize finishing the push with your front leg. This will force you to put all of your weight on that front foot. After you finish, simply put your back foot back down and prepare for the next rep.

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With the Reverse Lunge, you can try this:

  1. When you get to the bottom of the move, shift forward and backward between your legs until you find that sweet spot where you have a real strong and leveraged position for your front leg.
  2. Just before you come up, shift your weight forward slightly. Find your arch and push through your front heel as you lift your back foot up. Don't let yourself push off with your back foot. Keep your back foot elevated to get a real solid push to the top with your front leg.

Your pelvis should be level on both sides, and you should have no excessive rotation or side shifting. The lunging knee should stay in line with the hip and foot. At the bottom of the Lunge, you should have close to a 90-degree angle between your upper and lower leg. Your trunk should remain tall throughout the movement.

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