Mon | Nov 12, 2018

Fit 4 Life | Reasons to lunge

Published:Wednesday | October 31, 2018 | 10:36 PMMarvin Gordon/Contributor
"The lunge – when done correctly – is among the most effective lower body exercises" - fitness coach Marvin Gordon.

Based on their online reputations, squats and lunges couldn't be more different: squats are the famous distant relative we want to tell everyone about, while lunges seem to fall somewhere between criminal sibling and the weird aunt you hide from.

And, while both target some of the same muscles, they are quite different and lunges offer some unique benefits.

So, before you post another squat photo to Instagram, take a closer look at the lunge. 

BENEFITS OF THE LUNGE

The lunge – when done correctly – is among the most effective lower body exercises. A single-leg movement, the lunge lists among its benefits:

• IT BUILDS BALANCE. The lunge not only helps to build balance and coordination, but it also helps to maintain equilibrium in muscle development. Because each leg is worked individually, it reduces muscle and strength imbalances between both sides and is less likely to cause these imbalances when compared with double-leg movements like the squat.

• IT IS A MORE NATURAL MOVEMENT. The lunge falls more in line with the way we move on a daily basis. Whether you are walking or climbing stairs or doing something more athletic such as sprinting, you are lunging. Training with lunges, therefore, translates better to improved performance in most activities when compared to double leg exercises and even other single leg moves.

• LUNGES TARGET MORE MUSCLES. Lunges hit all the leg muscles along with the core (back and abs). Lunges are also less quad-dominant than moves such as squats. This means that big muscles such as the glutes and hamstrings get more of a workout. It also ensures smaller muscles such as the adductors are recruited as well. You can even use variations to shift focus to specific muscle groups or movement patterns.

• LESS LOAD ON YOUR SPINE. One of the main reasons the back squat is the diva of leg exercises is the amount of load you can use. Who doesn't want to post pictures of themselves in the middle of a 'monster' squat online? Lunges will never allow you to load as much weight, but this is not a bad thing. It means you can do more with less equipment and less pressure on your spine and joints.

• THE LUNGE IS GOOD FOR HIP HEALTH. Tight hip flexors are a common limiting factor in today's world of cars and desk jobs. As we spend hours at a time sitting, our hip flexors grow shorter and tighter while our glutes grow weak, reducing hip stability and mobility. By themselves, lunges might not provide a comprehensive solution to the hip mobility issue, but it does attack the problem from two angles: 

1. It provides a dynamic stretch for the hip flexors. 

2. It strengthens the glutes. 

- Marvin Gordon is a fitness coach; email: marvin.gordon@physiqueandfunction.com; yourhealth@gleanerjm.com