Lunges are considered a major primal movement and appear in nearly all workouts. When performed correctly, they can give us strong legs and land us a great butt!
However, they also can cause a lot of knee pain. When working with clients who struggle with lunges, I find that the issue is usually related to how the pelvis and torso are positioned throughout movement. With a few simple adjustments, most of my clients report feeling less knee pain and more engaged leg muscles.
The mistakes that I see in lunges are fairly common, but luckily, they’re also super easy to fix!
So clean up your lunge to get killer legs and a toned butt! These simple tips should take the strain out of your knees. The bonus is that when you lunge correctly, you have better access to your glutes, which will give you better results from your workout.
How To Lunge The Wrong Way
When most of us lunge, it looks like this:
So what's wrong with this picture?
Well, lunges are often cued to start with one leg staggered back and the spine and hips completely upright. From here, many people immediately go into their lunge.
While not necessarily completely wrong, this upright position is not the most favorable one to lunge from.
Being completely upright makes us more likely to put too much weight in the back leg and adds stress to the hips, where many of us are already tight.
The end result is that the quads are doing more work than they should be and the glutes aren't being engaged enough. Plus, the front leg bone is being pushed forward into the kneecap, which is one reason why some of us feel knee pain or compression when we lunge.
Here's How To Do Lunges The Right Way
Instead, your set-up should look like this:
When you set up your lunge, try pitching your torso slightly forward, so your pelvis angles slightly back and your weight goes into your front leg. This will take the pressure out of your hips.
Note that only the angle of the pelvis and torso has changed.
The spine remains in a straight line.
From here, you can lunge correctly:
Make sure you are:
1. Squaring your hips and bending your back knee straight toward the ground, either as low as you can without knee pain or until it hovers a few inches off of the floor.
2. Trying to avoid leaning into the back leg, tucking your pelvis in or pushing your hips forward.
3. Completing the movement by pushing through the ball of your front foot and heel as you straighten both knees.
Your hips should stay hinged slightly back with the torso slightly forward.
Hint: if you feel your front glute fire, you know you’re on the right track!
If you feel the burn primarily in the front of your thigh or the back hip flexor or experience excessive pressure in your front knee, you might be driving your hips too far forward or keeping too much weight on the back leg.
Once you’ve got a sense of how to lunge with the correct alignment, you can take it to the next level by adding weights.
This fix is admittedly subtle and might take a little practice, but perfect your hip hinge and you'll find that lunges become harder in all the right places with less joint stress!
Photo credit: Carol Whitfield