Men’s Health/Eric Rosati
Even though bodyweight workouts don’t require any implements like dumbbells or barbells and typically focus on simple movements, that doesn’t mean the exercises won’t challenge you. This is especially true if you’re intent to make the most of your efforts, focusing in on your form and working to make every rep perfect.
Unilateral movements like lunges might look easy, but if all you’re doing is stepping forward and bending at the knee, you’re missing out on the full potential of the move. You can learn the intricacies of the exercise here—but if you need to build up to performing lunges for reps or even with a load, start with this progression from trainer Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S.
“If you learn one thing from reading this article, may it be that squats are the first exercise on the progression journey for lunges,” Atkins says. “The next step after a bilateral squat is to take the movement unilateral (with a split squat).”
If you’re not comfortable stepping forward, don’t worry—Atkins thinks you might be better served stepping back. “As a trainer, I always prefer reverse lunges over forward lunges because of the amount of stress a forward lunge puts on the knee,” she says. “In fact, I rarely do a loaded forward lunge. If you’re looking for strength gains, first master the split squat and rear foot elevated split squat (Bulgarian split squat). From there, work on increasing the amount load you can handle.”
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LUNGE PROGRESSIONS Squat ▶️ Iso-Split Squat ▶️ Split Squat ▶️ Reverse Lunge ▶️ Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat ▶️ Forward Lunge ⠀ 🗣Some points worth making: ⠀ 🔹WHEN IN DOUBT, ISO- IT OUT: Build muscle memory by isometrically holding the hardest part of an exercise, i.e. the bottom phase of the lunge ⠀ 🔹REVERSE IS EASIER THAN FORWARD: A reverse lunge is easier than a forward lunge ⠀ 🔹SQUAT FIRST: If you haven’t mastered the squat, it might not be time to progress to a lunge ⠀ 🔹RFE=Bulgarian: Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat is the same thing as a Bulgarian Squat ⠀ 🔹KNEE DOMINANT: Every single exercise in this video is a knee dominant exercise, meaning it primarily works the muscles acting on the knees aka the quads. So, if you want bigger or stronger quads then do more of these. If you’re looking to lean your quad muscles out, then maybe do less of these (or less of a load) and opt for more hip dominant exercise (to grow the bootay). ⠀ Video 1: Forward Lunge (Easiest exercise to hardest exercise) Video 2: Squat Video 3: Iso- Split Squat Video 4: Split Squat Video 5: Split Squat Video 6: Reverse Lunge Video 7: RFE Split Squat Video 8: Forward Lunge
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds or 10 reps at a time, alternating legs
Atkins has one important tip for one of the most complicated exercise in the group, the rear foot elevated split squat: Be sure that your foot is positioned so your shoe laces are always down on the bench or platform. “If you curl the toe under, you’ll never be able to progress to adding more weight since the position of the foot will restrict stability and mobility,” she says. “Get your body used to the position now.”
Take on the progression series by performing each exercise for 30 seconds alternating legs (when necessary), or 10 reps for each leg. Turn it into a quick lunge session by repeating for 2 total rounds.
Want to learn more moves from Atkins? Check out our series full of her workout tips, Try Her Move.
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