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Front lunges might seem like a fairly straight forward exercise, but there are a few key pointers that can turn it from a great movement to a potential injury risk. Below are a few tips on not only staying safe, but maximizing movement execution.
A lack of strength is seldom an issue newer lifters have when they first start doing front lunges. Rather, they have trouble with balance. Every time they step forward, they either want to lean to one side or their torso is leaning too far forward.
This all happens because the trainee doesn’t have proper muscle control or proprioreception to perform front lunges with solid form. This can best (and quickest) be alleviated by simply practicing lunging. Instead of just waiting to do them during your leg workouts, do a couple sets of body weight only lunges every single morning. This will help “groove” the nervous system, allowing you to just get better at the act of lunging.
Some trainees also have a hard time keeping their torso upright once they finally do make front lunges a part of their workouts. They’re using a weight that their legs are capable of, but they’re so focused on keeping their feet planted that they end up leaning too far forward when they lunge out.
To avoid this, think about keeping your chest “spread”. This means to retract your scapulae, pulling your shoulders back, and spreading your chest out as wide as possible. You can do none of this leaning forward, and it’ll all cause you to want to keep your torso upright. However, instead of trying to remember so many different mental cues at once, if you concentrate on “spreading the chest”, it’ll help you naturally end up with better form.
A common recommendation is when you have one foot lunged forward and are ready to return to the starting position, to drive through your forward heel. Don’t overlook this. Many lifters will inadvertently push through the ball of their forward foot. This usually causes the heel to come off the ground and lessens your balance.
Another detractor to this is that because pushing through the ball of your foot is less stable, it can be harder on the knee. One of the knocks the dumbbell lunge has going against it is that it can be hard on the knees if you let form break down. Not driving through the heel just puts more strain on the knee, which is something you don’t want.
When properly done, front lunges are a very effective exercise. They can help you improve balance, athleticism, and teach each leg to maximize performance individually. It’s great for athletes and also bodybuilders looking to improve muscle quality. However, you don’t want to accidentally injure a knee. Take steps to improve balance, keep your torso upright, and you should be good to go.