The Lower Body Move You Never Knew You Were Doing Wrong

by Brook Benten Jimenez on July 22, 2020 in Lifestyle, Sports, Wellness,
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Whether you’ve been exercising for as long as you can remember or you’ve just gotten off the sofa, some common exercises seem like no-brainers. 

But, all too often, it’s on these seemingly obvious exercises that 90% of exercisers (and plenty of certified personal trainers) need a tune-up. Today, for the third in the series of moves that you never knew you were doing wrong, we are covering Forward Lunges.

Whether you’re doing your first Camp Gladiator boot camp, 50th Orangetheory Fitness class, or 5,000th repeat of your fave workout video, you have done forward lunges. Forward Lunges have a lot going for them: they’re metabolic, multi-muscle/multi-joint, bodyweight only (or can be), and they’re fantastic for lifting and toning the butt! But the downside is that many people turn the knee in, putting unnecessary strain on the knee.

Click to watch Fitness Professional Brook Benten Jimenez’s quick video, then follow the detailed steps below to perfect your Forward Lunge.

Alignment

A properly performed lunge forward will align the hip, knee and ankle in the sagittal, or longitudinal, plane (think railroad tracks). Without mindfully tracking the knee with the toes when the foot lands forward, the knee may naturally turn inward, throwing off alignment and knocking the train off the tracks. I say “naturally,” because depending on how your femur (thigh bone) fits into your acetabulum (hip socket), you may have what’s called a “natural turnout.”

Test Yourself

Here’s a quick test: If you stand up straight, barefooted, and shake your legs out, then plant your feet where they naturally fall, you can look down and you’ll notice if your feet landed forward or turned out. A woman’s pelvis is shaped wider and flatter than a man’s and that differently-shaped bone affects the hip’s ball-and-socket joint; most women have a natural turnout. 

Correcting

We (myself included) can say the problem is congenital, and we’d be right, but that doesn’t mean we go around walking like a duck with our feet turned out. In the same way, when we lunge, we may have to make a conscious effort to turn the toes forward, not out, and knee forward, not in.

If you refuse to self-correct the natural tendency of your body, you probably shouldn’t be doing forward lunges, because with time, the malalignment will come at a price to your knees. (However, it’s totally fine to embrace your natural turnout on squats. If your feet naturally turn out, when you squat, just be sure your knees track out, too!)

Weak Muscles

Weakness is another reason that the knee may turn in. If your hamstrings (backs of thighs) and gluteus medius (side booty muscles) are weak, it will be difficult to align your joints properly in a lunge. See our exercises below the Forward Lunge for strengthening your hamstrings and glutes.

The Forward Lunge

Step 1: Stand tall with plenty of space in front of you. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez
Step 2: Step one foot forward the length of your femur or a few inches further. Land your front foot on the floor with toes facing forward. Keep your hips sagittal. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez
Step 3: Bend your knees to hover above the ground. Track your knee forward, in the same direction as the toes. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez
Step 4: Extend your knees and step back to starting position. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez

How To Strengthen Your Hamstrings

Standing Hamstring Curls, Step 1: Place the handle of a resistance band around your foot like a stirrup. Smash the tubing down to the ground with the other foot, leaving a little bit of slack for the exercise. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez
Standing Hamstring Curls, Step 2: Stand upright. Curl your heel in toward your butt. Pulse three times at the top. Slowly extend your knee and lower your leg to starting position. Perform 10-15 reps before switching to the other side. Aim for 3 sets per leg. Photo Brook Benten Jimenez

How To Strengthen Your Gluteus Medius

Clamshells, Step 1: Lay on one side with legs stacked and knees bent (“fetal position”). Photo Brook Benten Jimenez
Clamshells, Step 2: Lift the top knee while keeping your big toes touching (form a diamond shape). Pulse the top knee three times at the top, then lower to starting position. Perform 10-15 reps before switching to the other side. Aim for 3 sets per leg. (Tip: Make it harder by wrapping a mini-band around your thighs.) Photo Brook Benten Jimenez

 


Cover photo courtesy Brook Benten Jimenez

Brook Benten Jimenez, M.Ed., is an exercise physiologist in Georgetown, Texas. She is currently in the running for “Ms Health & Fitness 2020” (vote here). Benten Jimenez was named 2012 “Austin’s Fittest Fitness Professional.”

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