How to Correctly Perform Walking Lunges

Walking Lunges Mid-Position

This article is an 'Exercise of the Month' as featured in the November 2013 issue of Living magazine.

Addressing the common wrongs when performing our Exercise of the Month: showing you the successful way to have a good hips, legs and bum workout anywhere with no equipment necessary: the right way to perform Walking Lunges.

Walking Lunges are a favourite exercise of mine; you can perform them anywhere and the effects on your legs and bum can be felt almost immediately. For these reasons, Walking Lunges are popularised by magazines and PT’s worldwide, however, I feel they’re widely demonstrated and performed incorrectly. Okay, here goes: this is typically what we interpret and/ or see performed in gyms and bootcamps: Keep your upper body straight (note: at 90 degrees to the floor on illustrations), with your shoulders back and relaxed and chin up, assume a split-stance and lunge, return to Start-Position, then, step forward on the opposite leg and repeat. Suggestions to increase difficulty include adding weight (dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.) and, often, to perform an arm curl or alternating a one-arm shoulder press with said weight at the Mid-Position of the movement.

Firstly, is there any point at all in performing Walking Lunges over Lunges if you are to simply return to a leg’s spread (split-stance) Start-Position and, then, STEP forward? No. Your Start-Position for Walking Lunges is with your legs side-by-side. Initiate a lunge with your right leg. At the Mid-Position, your right leg should form a right angle. Upon rising from the Mid-Position of the Lunge on your right leg, the foot of your trailing leg (left) should meet/ pass your standing foot at the top-of-the-movement (Start Position) and, then, you lunge forward on your left leg and continue to repeat on opposing legs for the desired number of repetitions. This is Walking Lunges! One of the key benefits of Walking Lunges: the Quadriceps (major muscles of your thigh), due to the increased load over your standing leg whilst returning from the Mid-Position to the Start-Position, remain fully-engaged for longer. Simply place your hand on the sides of your thigh and perform a regular Lunge and a Walking Lunge to make the comparison. This is also a great way to tell (with your hands, not just your legs) when you are performing Walking Lunges correctly, increase stability, and feel the crossover of rolls between the Hamstrings (leg biceps) and the Quadriceps (thighs). These are large muscle bellies, so, even a relatively untrained individual should feel the engagement of these muscle groups.

Weights-wise, they’re just not required by most people when performing Walking Lunges correctly – the exercise is difficult enough. Should you wish to increase the weight/ difficulty, the mechanics of the lift means by simply leaning forward ever-so-slightly over your working leg will increase the load. Does this conflict with assuming the correct upper body posture? No. Keeping your back straight, shoulders back, and head forward, are correct in achieving the right posture, however, the constant illustration of the upper body having to be at 90 degrees to the floor during Walking Lunges is not necessarily so – consider a Squat or Deadlift which follows a similar instruction, your upper body does not remain at 90 degrees to the floor in order to keep your back straight (not curved!). Under the guise of being more “functional”, increasing difficulty, or a greater calorie burn, adding an arm curl or one-arm shoulder press to the movement I consider silliness – it’s making something more awkward (not necessarily more difficult in the right way!) for the sake of it and detracts from the primary movement itself. With this inclusion, I often see participants revert back to an incorrect Lunge and step forward for ease, or, nearly fall over.

Here’s a quick video demonstration to help illustrate our key points:

So, there it is: the successful way to help you work almost every major muscle in the lower body – the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Hips Flexors and Extensors, and Calves: How to Correctly Perform Walking Lunges.

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