When is a lunge not a lunge?

Personal Training Birmingham

Well, when it’s a split squat of course!

I get asked quite frequently what the difference is between a lunge and a split squat, so I thought I’d take the time to clear it up here. I’ll also talk a little about the different versions of both you are likely to encounter, and which could be right for you.

In essence a lunge is a single leg movement that you step into and out of. Conversely a split squat is a squat with a split stance, with feet remaining fixed in place throughout.

In this article I will talk about the types of lunges you are likely to encounter, and what to look out for when performing them.

The most common lunge is a simple forwards lunge, performed on the spot or as a walking variation. This is a great movement for developing single leg strength in general, with a heavy emphasis on the quads. You should be taking a big enough step forwards so that your front shin remains vertical to the ground when your rear knee reaches the floor. I prefer to work with the knee touching the floor as it uses a greater range of motion at the hip, and also teaches appropriate eccentric control. Assuming of course that you don’t want to bash your knee to pieces on the floor!

My preferred method of lunging however, is the reverse lunge. This has a greater emphasis on strengthening the hamstrings and glutes as you are pulling yourself forwards to stand up, rather than pushing yourself backwards (as in a forwards lunge). The main reason for this preference is simply that most people are deficient in hamstring and glute strength in comparison to quad strength in my experience. Using this method to develop them is a great option without adding significant workload through the lower back.

When it comes to loading lunges, you have several options. For most people I recommend choosing a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells held by your sides, ‘suitcase style’. Doing it this way will effectively lower your centre of mass which will aid with your balance and stability and allow you to focuse on strengthening the movement. However, it may be the case that you want to improve your balance and stability rather than strength, in which case I recommend loading with a kettlebell or dumbbell loaded in a goblet position to increase the height of the centre of mass. Generally I avoid advising the use of a barbell in a rack position, as it is easy to have a mishap and drop the bar on your leg if you lose your balance.

There are, of course, all sorts of other versions of lunge, a common one being a reverse lunge with the front foot rotated in, mostly used for recruiting the glutes to a greater extent, however it is recommended to master the above variations first before expanding into more complex versions.

Next week I will follow up this article by talking about common split squat variations, including the dreaded Bulgarian split squat!


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