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Though they’re not necessarily uncommon, you might be surprised at all the benefits of lunges. An excellent addition to any lower body workout, they’re great for bodybuilders who want to improve muscle quality and they’re great for sports players who want to focus on working one leg at a time to improve athleticism. Read on below to learn more specific benefits of lunges.
One of the benefits of lunges that you don’t get with other leg movements is highly balanced overall lower body development. Firstly, virtually every single leg muscle is worked from all the heads of the quadriceps to the glutes to the hamstrings. Even the hip flexors and groin muscles are worked.
Also, due to the nature of the exercise, you’re not only getting a good deal of muscular contraction, but also forcing every muscle into a deep stretch. This is beneficial because it results in greater motor recruitment because the stretch is deeper than you’d get with a more linear movement pattern (e.g. – just squatting up and down).
Because a good portion of a lunge is performed with only one foot on the floor, your balance and coordination is being indirectly trained. Continuing, because you’re training each leg differently at the same time, it also more mimics “real life” and sporting activities.
For example, if you’re walking or running, you’re stepping with one leg, then the other. This is what you’re doing when lunging. If you’re sprinting, then jumping over something, it’s the same sort of scenario. Single leg movements in general can lead to more athleticism, but the benefits of lunges generally outweigh other exercises because of the added balance factor that comes in from the feet not being planted the entire time.
Whether you’re doing the barbell version shown above, or holding a dumbbell in each hand, one of the most important benefits of lunges is that there’s much less spinal loading than when doing heavy barbell squats. Squats are obviously an excellent exercise, but once you get so strong, the risks to spine health start to catch up to the strength gains you get. Doing lunges can allow you to circumvent these risks.
A large problem many gym goers have is poor glute activation. This can happen if you’re fairly sedentary outside the gym – especially if you have a desk job. Poor glute activation can cause not only muscular imbalances, but your lower back picking up the slack. This can eventually lead to lower back problems such as poor posture, stiffness, and in extreme cases, even such ailments as sciatica.
While almost any free standing lower body exercise is going to require you to have a strong core (you’re not squatting a heavy barbell if your trunk isn’t strong enough to support it), the three-dimensional movement pattern of lunges just ups the ante.
Instead of just having to keep your torso in a correct position while squatting up and down, you have to keep it upright while moving forward and back. Your natural tendency will be to want to lean forward as you lunge forward, and you’ll have to keep your core tight to prevent this from happening. This then turns into yet another one of the benefits of lunges in that by ensuring that you engage in proper lunge form, you strengthen your core even more.
While there are many benefits of lunges, it only takes one or two to see that they should be part of your lower body workouts. Whether it’s improved glute activation, decreased spinal loading, or building a stronger core, they can keep you simply healthier. Plus, they’ll just inherently improve your balance and athleticism. Integrate them into your workout and you’ll soon be stronger, have more coordination, and a more durable body overall.